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11.6: Solidarity and Intersectionality

  • Page ID
    104098
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    While each one of the movements covered in this chapter has specific identities that were central, in reality, social movements centering around race have intersecting dynamics, especially around social class and gender. For example, it is notable that the founders and most prominent leaders of Black Lives Matter are Black women: Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Khan-Cullors. Two out of these three women identify as queer. This is in stark contrast to the Civil Rights Movement which was characterized by patriarchal power structures and primarily male figureheads (Kuumba, 2002). The historical mis-remembering of Rosa Parks as simply a Black woman whose feet were tired after a long day of work exemplifies the sidelining of Black women's role in advancing the cause through the Montgomery Bus Boycott - despite male leaders' dismissal of the tactic. Rosa Parks in her own words: "People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn't true. I was not tired physically … No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in" (Theo-Harris, 2018).

    Similarly, the fight against building oil pipelines on Indian reservations has implications for the drinking water of millions of non-Native people and on the climate and global population as a whole. Environmental injustice harms not just one marginalized group but many in addition to poor whites, so calls for justice require solidarity across these categories of identity (Mohai, Pellow & Roberts, 2009). We have seen how pivotal social media and media coverage is to amplifying these causes and most importantly, bringing diverse people together for the same cause. Dr. King, a sociologist in his own right, understood the importance of appealing to allies and what are commonly referred to today in the movements as "accomplices" or "co-conspirators," or individuals engaged in proactive behavior that helps support the movement or cause, which is why he was willing to lead a group of peaceful protestors from Selma to Montgomery to demand voting rights for African Americans despite the risks of physical violence and brutalization from law enforcement and white terrorists, in part because he understood that the national broadcasting of these images would draw empathy from otherwise privileged and unengaged audiences (Powell & Kelly, 2017). Though the march started with only 2,000 participants, ultimately 50,000 supporters from across the country joined in the efforts. Similarly, when tribal historian LaDonna Brave Bull Allard put out the call for supporters to join the prayer camp at Standing Rock, it swelled to thousands. Those who could not travel supported through online fundraising campaigns and donated supplies such as blankets, heavy jackets, and camping supplies to the encampment. Allard thanked the "keyboard warriors" who amplified the cause via social media and despite the mainstream media blackout, many became aware of their struggles against the Dakota Access Pipeline through these acts of solidarity and online activism (Democracy Now!, 2020). Likewise, the 2020 summer protests following the police lynching of George Floyd were comprised of a diverse collective, of mostly young people in the U.S. and internationally, in which signs read, "Latinos for Black Lives," "White Silence is Violence," "Filipinos for Black Power," and "Queer and Black Trans Lives Matter."

    Sign held by a supporter of Black Trans Lives Matter.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): "Black Trans Lives Matter" (CC BY 2.0; alecperkins via Flickr)

    The immigrants rights movement in the United States also opens up intersectional discourse of the U.S. role abroad and questions of militarism, global capitalism, and even the impact of the "War on Drugs" on not only poor communities of color in the U.S. but in other nations. Reflecting on the work of artivist Julio Salgado, featured in Chapter 8.3, the intersection of undocumented and LGBTQIA+ statuses led to a new term, Undocuqeer. Pointing back to Chapter 1.1 and a century ago, W.E.B. Du Bois highlighted that the "problem of the color line" is not just specific to the experience in the United States, rather it is an issue of global importance. As we seek to improve race relations domestically, it is vital to take a global intersectional perspective that does not make invisibile the experiences of the "third" or exploited world (Mohanty, 1984). Racial hierarchy and division was historically constructed as a tool to disempower and dominate, so any attempt to challenge such structures requires an intersectional perspective that can strengthen movements and highlight the need for solidarity and awareness among members of various oppressed and dominant groups, with the aim to improve the human condition.

    Supporters at the London Refugee Solidarity March.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): "London Refugee Solidarity March" (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0; Manos Simonides via Flickr)

    A final example of solidarity and intersectionality can be understood on a local level in Long Beach, California. A grass-roots coalition of nearly 20 community groups created the People's State of the City in 2013, as a way of drawing attention to experiences of marginalized groups living and working in the city - as their issues were generally not addressed by the local power structure. Video 11.6.3 provides an excerpt from the 2016 People's State of the City, a glimpse at the solidarity and intersectionality of diverse groups such as East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, Unite! Here Local 11 (hotel workers), Californians for Justice (educational justice), Mentoring Youth Through Empowerment (a program of the LGBTQ Center), and Khmer Girls in Action. The People's State of the City emphasizes "people power" and giving voice to lived experiences of people of color in the city.

    Video \(\PageIndex{3}\): 2016 Long Beach People's State of the City. (Close-captioning and other YouTube settings will appear once the video starts.) (Fair Use; LAANE via YouTube)

    Key Takeaways

    • Undocumented immigrants continue to fight for citizenship and find natural allies in the community members they have built social connections with.
    • Black Lives Matter formed in 2014 in response to the vigilante violence that killed Trayvon Martin and has grown to incorporate a wider critique of the racist criminal justice system and systemic racism and anti-blackness in the U.S. and around the world.
    • Indigenous rights and sovereignty are intertwined with environmental justice causes.
    • White supremacists continue to pose the greatest threat to public safety in the 21st century and the threats are amplified by internet communications and widening wealth inequality.
    • Multi-racial solidarity remains the key to combating racism and economic oppression.

    Contributors and Attributions

    • Tsuhako, Joy. (Cerritos College)
    • Johnson, Shaheen. (Long Beach City College)

    Works Cited

    • Democracy Now! (2020). A dream that comes true: standing rock elder hails order to shut down dapl after years of protest. [Video]. YouTube.
    • Mohai, P., Pellow, D., & Roberts, J.T. (2009). Environmental justice. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 34, 405-430.
    • Mohanty, C. (1984). Under western eyes: feminist scholarship and colonial discourses. Boundary 2, 12/13, 333-358.
    • Powell, J. & Kelly, A. (2017). Accomplices in the academy in the age of Black lives matter. Journal of Critical Thought and Praxis, 6(2).
    • Theo-Harris, J. (2018). A More Beautiful and Terrible History: The Uses and Misuses of Civil Rights History. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.