Black canvas

The Vertical Integration Illustration In Relation to Globalisation & Human Integration

Blean Tsige



“We reject the ideology of globalism and embrace the doctrine of patriotism” 

(Trump, 2018)

In this essay, the main objective is to display art in relation to globalism. The analysis focuses on globalization and an art piece that reflects on the subject of human integration. Globalization aims to shape the movement mechanisms of capital, people and culture. It creates an interconnectedness, but at the same time, it creates limits to mechanisms of connection. This means that through globalisation, the interaction between people has changed. There are, however, issues with globalisation. The issue that arises due to the world becoming more globalized is that human integration becomes unfair or in other words an “uneven development and inequality” ( Nederveen Pieterse, 2004, pg. 25). 

According to Nederveen Pieterse (2009), there is human integration all the time. This is because all of humanity are migrants. This means that everyone’s ancestors come from different places. Nederveen Pieterse (2009), in fact, suggests in order to tackle the issues surrounding human integration, such as inequality, one solution should be focused on. In this sense, Nederveen Pieterse (2009), is implying to focus on the socio-economics of migration, because the contributions of migrants have been most of the time ignored. Traditionally uneven development and inequality are associated with underdeveloped nations, however, these issues can arise in developed countries as well. For example, the USA is a Westernized country, however, there is a history of African Americans struggling to integrate. Especially, in the past, African- Americans' input in the US socio-economics market has been overlooked. This contributes to the problems surrounding African Americans' struggle to integrate into the US system. 

The main aim of this essay is to examine a question which is ‘How has the painting Vertical Integration by Bennett reflected the problems of globalisation and human integration of African-Americans’? The paper will scrutinize the political climate of the US regarding the issues of globalisation. Moreover, the focus will be overall on the uneven development and inequality human integration causes with migrants. By reflection on Trump’s public outbursts and their effects, it has on the African-American community. This is supposed to show the main message embedded in Bennett’s art piece (Vertical Integration), which will also be further discussed. The question will be answered by analysing the book by Nederveen Pieterse (2009) We are all migrants: migration and human integration, Increasing Multicultural Understanding by Locke & Bailey (2014), and articles by The Guardian, Washington Post, The Atlantic, Fox News & Time. 




“I honour the sacrifices of historic African American catalysts such as Emmett Till and Medgar Evers, and contemporary courageous figures like Colin Kaepernick. By intimately conversing with today’s unsung hero who is poised to make history, the piece provides a safe space of radical healing to ignite courage within our future catalysts."

(Knowledge Bennett, 2018) 

If a powerful president of a country rejects the notions of globalisation, it is considered to be oxymoronic, because it cannot be reconciled. For example, Donald Trump, the former president of the United States, believes that America comes first (Hennigan, 2018). He rejects the ideology of globalism and prefers to reimplement concepts of patriotism (Hennigan, 2018). This is because Trump maintains that “international collaboration has resulted in the U.S. being swindled” (Hennigan, 2018). In general, it is common to suggest that globalisation aims at interconnectedness, instead of harming the mechanism of connections, between capital, goods and culture. However, Trump suspects that even though the US has been an open economy “other countries did not grant that same access”  (Hennigan, 2018). Nonetheless, one issue that seems to be simply disregarded by Trump, is that America is not solely governed by Americans (Hennigan, 2018). There is another group of people, who have been influencing the American socio-economic market for years, but unfortunately, they have never been included. So when Trump says, “America is governed by Americans” and continuously embarrasses his own nation in front of the United Nations, African-Americans' only response is “Who’s mans is this”. 

This is because the US has failed to integrate African Americans accordingly, even though this group has made a great contribution towards the nation's socio-economic status. Nonetheless, as Nederveen Pieterse (2009) has suggested, the input of migrants has been overlooked by nations. Even though “many achievements routinely claimed by nations have to a significant extent been the work of [...] migrants” (Nederveen Pieterse, 2009, pg. 35). But western countries including the USA, led by vexing Presidents, such as Trump, continuously spread this ideology, that America is made up of only white Americans, and thereby failing to include African-Americans in this category. 

African Americans are ethnic groups dominantly originating from sub-Saharan Africa, which were enslaved and sent to the USA (Locke & Bailey, 2014). Although slavery was abolished in the year 1865, African Americans had to still struggle with segregation until the late 70s (Nieto, 2022). In between that time, African Americans participated in the Great Migration, which was a movement of black people coming from the South who went to the northern and western parts of the USA (Odlum, 2016). This was from the 1910s until 1970, and more than six million African Americans migrated, because of the horrible conditions they were exposed to in the south (Odlum, 2016). Eventually, African Americans were able to sustain a better lifestyle that allowed them to focus on establishing a solid foundation within America. With that came the civil rights movement. Through the input of the civil rights movement, many African Americans were able to address issues they were dealing with (Newkirk, 2017). One of the problems was lynching, which sparked public outrage, especially when the victims were young, for example, Emmett Till who was only 14 years old (Newkirk, 2017). But the civil rights movement aimed, besides that, at increasing the equality of African Americans. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, in 1963, in which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, was a march that focused on segregation (Rao, 2021). The objective was to create pressure on leaders, which at the time was John F. Kennedy, to ban discrimination in public, which is a consequence of segregation (Kendi, 2017). As much as the bill was aimed at segregation and other racist topics, the problems did not stop then (Kendi, 2017). 



Figure 1. Civil rights march on Washington D.C. © Warren K. Leffler, 1963.

In this case, it is plausible to consider African-Americans as a group of migrants, which have been unwillingly set up in a country that seems to not give them any recognition. They have been put in the background, and if there is a moment in which they can address an issue, the outcome seems to be that it will not be resolved. There is an underlying issue of the human integration of African Americans in the USA. Which is contradictory to what is happening globally. The idea of globalization is a common belief in the interconnectedness of people and other factors, which seems to assert that the world is striving towards cultural homogenization (Nederveen Pieterse, 2004). This includes the fact that the world ought to develop societies that are either integrating or can consequently be a community that will be fragmenting (Nederveen Pieterse, 2004). This sort of fragmentation is happening in the USA, where African Americans are not able to fully integrate (Nederveen Pieterse, 2004). The issue regarding human integration is that it includes desegregation, which is the process of ending systematic racial segregation (MacGregor, 2007). This means that there is an objective towards integrating African-American groups into the socio-economic of the nation. Nonetheless, from the perspective of legality, many steps forward have been taken, but more has to happen (MacGregor, 2007). 

This is what Knowledge Bennett focuses on, an artist who grew up in New York but lives now in Los Angeles (Men of Change, 2018). In an interview, Bennett explained that “history plays a major role” in his art, which conveys messages (Artsy Auction, 2016). For example, one of his famous paintings Vertical Integration (Figure 2) also conveys a vital message. The message communicated in this art piece is to explore the “contemporary sociological understanding of political and ideological tensions” (Men of Change, 2018).


Figure 2. The Vertical Integration art piece is a message to the Political leaders.


Furthermore, the artwork in Figure 2 aims to present a simple but powerful message that delves “into the contemporary realities of Black existence in the United States” (Artsy Auctions, 2016). It is portrayed in a black colour that has white tiny dots on there. The idea behind the artwork is supposed to cover political issues that are faced by African Americans when dealing with their integration process throughout globalization. Bennett is unconsciously portraying what Nederveen Pietersen (2004) seems to be pointing out, which is that through globalisation the human integration process can be an uneven development or cause inequality. 


3| Examining The Underlying Meaning Of The Vertical Integration 


"I celebrate minimalism as an approach to seeking respite from distractions. Through examining personal grief, I visualize a dynamic illusionistic relation to the ground and space. By gazing into the sparkling abyss, I combine the sublime duality of self-reflection and reflecting a mirror onto contemporary society.”

(Bennett, 2018)


Figure 2, displays an illustration that focuses on minimalism, but it addresses topics that are part of the political discourse. These topics relate to what the March of Washington tried to convey. Which is that the issues African Americans are facing and protesting about as they did at the March of Washington have “little to do with Donald Trump, the Republican president beaten by Joe Biden but still an active force in national politics from the far right” (Rao, 2021). This means that even though Trump is not the current president, African Americans still have a problem with integration because the far-right is still present in politics. They aim at patriotism and not globalism. The outcome of this issue is that instead of cultural homogenization, favoured by globalization, fragmentation will appear within the US communities if they fail to integrate African Americans accordingly. This is, additionally, a warning sign within the message of Bennett’s art. The canvas is supposed to reflect life and death, and at the same time, he is questioning healing, spirituality and the cravings for the sublime (Men of Change, 2018). 

Healing is something African Americans need, because “The Civil Rights Act of 1964, intended to dismantle racism, also spurred racist progress” (Kendi, 2017). The instances of police brutality, insinuate the idea that “discrimination persisted because legislators failed to close the oldest spring of racial poison: the accumulated gains of past discrimination” (Kendi, 2017). Even though far-right, republicans led by Donald Trump have less say while Joe Biden is president, the issue seems to only slightly decrease, because Biden himself focuses on funding the police, instead of siding with African Americans (Levin, 2022). Consequently, the issue demonstrates that powerful leaders are causing the fragmentation of communities, rather than focusing on integration. However, the idea of globalization is for cultural homogenization, but unfortunately as suggested by Nederveen Pieterse (2004), nations fail to acknowledge everyone who participates in the success, especially the migrants. The migrant, in this case, the African-American is unable to receive recognition, which may explain the fragmentation of the US communities. Thus, globalization might not be happening as desired by the many, and will not happen unless there is an equal human integration of all people, instead of just one group. If the USA continuously fails to integrate the African-American ethnic groups, it evinces the fact that the US is failing to participate in globalization. 

In this sense, the concept of globalization is challenged, by world leaders who insinuate the idea, such as Trump. He is not so far off in saying that he demands to “embrace the doctrine of patriotism” (Hennigan, 2018). This is a contradicting move, for a nation that claims to be a globalized success.  




After exploring the books by Nederveen Pieterse (2009), Locke & Bailey (2014), and the articles by The Guardian, Washington Post, The Atlantic, Fox News & Time, without globalization, the world would slowly decline into a disconnected society. The essay argues that leaders such as Trump who reject globalism are the main cause of the problems of human integration. Human integration becomes an uneven development and causes inequality. Consequently, the group that is affected by this issue in the US are the African- Americans, migrants who have been ignored. The problems were recognised by Nederveen Pieterse (2009), who believes that the socio-economic status of migrants should be focused on. However, as Bennett’s art piece Vertical Integration presents, is that the issues have not been solved in the US. His art piece is also a statement to the political groups, that the integration process African Americans endure is developing unevenly and causes inequality. He is, therefore, through his art piece, urging the political leaders of the USA, to pay attention to the integration problem. Human integration problems are a cause if leaders reject globalization, as Trump has done. In this case, it is plausible to conclude that, if the perspective of the far-right movements Trump is part of, will change, the interconnectedness of people will also. As a result, the human integration process will continue smoothly, especially in the instance of African Americans. 

“A picture is worth a thousand words” The art piece - Vertical Integration -  by Bennett is proof of that.  




Artsy Auctions (2016). Artist Interview - Knowledge of Bennett’s use of history and appropriation. Artsy.

Hennigan, W. J. (2018, September 25). “We Reject Globalism.” President Trump Took “America First” to the United Nations. Time.

Kendi, I. X. (2017, July 2). The Civil Rights Act was a victory against racism. But racists also won. Washington Post.

Locke, D.C & Bailey, D.F. (2014). Increasing Multicultural Understanding. SAGE Publications, Inc. pg. 105-133. 

MacGregor, M.J.Jr. (2007). Integration of the Armed Forces 1940-1965. Project Gutenberg EBook. 

Men of Change (2018). Knowledge Bennett Depicting Catalysts. Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service.

Nederveen Pieterse, J. (2009). We are all migrants: Migration and human integration. Globalization and Culture. Oxford.

Newkirk, V. R., II. (2017, February 16). How ‘The Blood of Emmett Till’ Still Stains America Today. The Atlantic.

Nieto, P. (2022, August 22). What year was slavery abolished in the US? Fox News.

Odlum, L. (2016) The Great Migration. Retrieved from the Digital Public Library of America,

Rao, A. (2021, August 28). Washington voting rights march marks Martin Luther King's anniversary. The Guardian.