Written by Nigisti Habtay

The irony of having to watch a thirty second ad before listening to Gil Scott Heron critique capitalism is not lost on me. In 2021, “Whitey on the Moon” seems to be more relevant than ever. When Heron wrote the poem, he was speaking on the Apollo Moon Landing, which was conducted by the government. I wonder if Scott would have ever imagined multiple private citizens being able to go to outer space. Amazon former CEO, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson, both billionaires, have recently took a voyage to outer space. On aboard Bezos spacecraft was the youngest person to ever travel to space, an eighteen year old whose dad paid $28 million for the experience. Private citizens were able to explore outer space while there is a global pandemic. The pandemic hurts the most vulnerable citizens, poor and disenfranchised. In the 1970s, Heron was incredulous about the wealth gaps and pay disparity in America. It has only got worse since Heron said “ I think I'll sen' these doctor bills, air mail special” in Whitey on the Moon. Medical debt was already crippling these past few decades, the pandemic only made things worse for people who cant afford the basic necessity of health care.

Bezos amassed his billions by evading business taxes and finding loopholes in tax regulations. Heron expresses how most of the money he earns is withheld for state and federal taxes, “Taxes takin’ my whole damn check”.  This is the reality for the rest of Americans who do not belong to the privilege and powerful one percent. Bezos thanked his Amazon employees for covering the $5.5 billion price tag to go to outer space for four minutes. The billionaire’s statement relates to Heron when he says, “Was all that money I made las' year (for whitey on the moon”.  In 2018, it was reported that Bezos makes the average Amazon employee’s salary in eleven seconds.  Amazon employees individually pay more in yearly taxes than Amazon and Bezos combined.  There have been reports of employees having to pee in water bottles to not waste any time taking a bathroom break. The Amazon warehouse conditions are hellish.  The average Amazon warehouse worker gets paid $15 an hour; while Bezos earns around $13.4 million an hour. Bezos was able create a company that pays less than the average citizen in yearly taxes by utilizing the existing laws and regulations that favor big business. For Jeff Bezos and others alike,  Americas economy is a free market with no governmental regulations. Whitey on the Moon is a critique of the governments’ priorities, and Heron’s statement still stands fifty years later.