From Silos to Solidarity: Learning from 2017’s Resistance Movements
What can we learn about effective solidarity practice from 2017’s resistance movements? With the advent of an Administration bent on targeting and criminalizing communities of color, 2017 may have begun with wearing safety pins and committing to #RegisterMeFirst but it evolved into solid campaigns and efforts that practiced meaningful solidarity. A look at the #Here2Stay and #NoMuslimBanEver movements reveals that people and organizations are using messages that uplift shared connections and values, and are taking actions rooted in clear analyses that authentically center communities directly affected by today’s criminalization policies. These examples show us that solidarity practice is most effective when:
*We center the communities who have the most to lose. This means that we both clearly name them (ie. “the Muslim ban”), and are guided by their needs and advice for strategy and messaging;
*We identify commonalities among the experiences that different communities have with oppression. At the same time, we are careful not to compare experiences, engage in “oppression Olympics”, or flatten all struggles as though they are monolithic or equal;
*We articulate clear analyses of how contemporary racism is rooted in deep histories of anti-Blackness and colonialism, especially in the U.S. context;
*We show up consistently and practice solidarity time and again, using different strategies and reaching new audiences, but sending the same messages; and
*We refuse to get mired in organizational and coalition dynamics of credit and control, whether that is in the context of raising funds, being spokespersons for communities who are affected, or playing a gatekeeper role.
You might remember that people descended upon airports around the country in the wake of the January 2017 executive order promulgating the Muslim and refugee bans. These self-organized protests garnered tremendous media attention and paved the way for a year of litigation, campaigns, and rallies against the many iterations of the Muslim and refugee bans. Beyond the airport protests, here are some examples of how communities expressed solidarity throughout the year:
*The Muslim ban is tied to anti-Blackness. Groups like the Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans in San Diego amplified the voices and experiences of refugees from Somalia and Sudan who experience the double threat of deportation and the ban under Trump’s policies, while Project South drew upon radical Black traditions to outreach and organize communities to resist the ban, and Muslim ARC reminded us that Black Muslims face the consequences of anti-Blackness and Islamophobia.
*Organizers at the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance made connections between the 2017 Muslim ban and the 1952 anti-LGBT travel ban to show how state policies criminalize communities based on characteristics such as faith, race, and gender and sexual identity, and organized #QueerAzaadi (Queer Liberation) events to stand against transphobia, anti-Muslim bias, and anti-Blackness.
*The Japanese American community has stood with South Asian, Muslim, Arab and Sikh communities since 9/11 to remind the country that we cannot repeat the grave mistakes during World War II when the US government incarcerated 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry. In the wake of the Muslim and refugee bans, the children of Gordon Hirabayashi, Fred Korematsu and Minoru Yasui took legal steps to challenge Trump’s policies. Learn more about why they are standing up for Muslims and refugees here, and listen to Holly Yasui in her own words here.
Trump’s Muslim ban was accompanied by a series of executive orders related to interior and border immigration enforcement that have led to detentions and deportations even in areas such as courthouses and hospitals that used to be designated as safe spaces for undocumented immigrants. During the summer of 2017, advocates began warning that the Administration might eliminate two critical programs — temporary protected status for immigrants who cannot return to their home countries due to conditions there, and DACA, which provided immigration benefits for qualified undocumented immigrant youth. By September, Trump had eliminated DACA and the TPS program was in serious jeopardy. But, undocumented communities and youth did not let up because they are #Ready2Fight and #Here2Stay.
*Groups like the UndocuBlack Network and the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) centered the experiences of Black immigrants through narratives and stories of Black people enduring border enforcement and the loss of temporary protected status which affects a number of Black-majority countries. One promising example of solidarity practice occurred with the Black and AAPI Day of Action, which brought Black and Asian American and Pacific Islander communities together to learn, share, and take action.
*Undocumented youth from Black, Latinx, Asian and Muslim communities amplified the message that any legislation to protect Dreamers would have to be “clean”, without border security and interior enforcement provisions. These youth rejected the divisive narratives of “we are families, not felons” and the “good immigrant” that have previously led to compromises on enforcement measures that criminalize brown and Black immigrants. Check out messaging and actions here.
*In Arizona, where the Trump Administration’s border wall could cut through the land of a Native reservation, the leadership and members of the Tohono O’odham Nation objected to the construction of the wall for dividing families and damaging ancestral lands.
*And in Queens, Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM) organized a campaign with partner groups to declare Jackson Heights a “hate-free” zone in order to develop a community defense network against criminalization and hate violence, and to connect the diverse communities of Queens together to stand up for human dignity.
Beyond the #Here2Stay and #NoMuslimBanEver movements, there are many other examples to draw upon. There is the Women’s March which set the tone for how we resist the Trump Administration’s policies and catalyzed personal, electoral and political change. Organizations like Million Hoodies United are collaborating to build freedom cities. Mijente is developing a political home for Latinx organizing that integrates an explicit pro-Black, pro-woman, pro-queer, pro-poor lens. There are long-standing local efforts that bring communities together through solidarity economies, worker cooperatives, storytelling, and advocacy; check out the transformative work happening in Silver Spring (MD), Madison (WI), and Jackson (MS).
We can also learn from efforts that are still evolving in their understanding and practice of solidarity. The #MeToo campaign, for instance, has become an invaluable effort to combat the pervasive sexual violence and harassment culture that exists in every sector. But, many rightly point out that we must interrogate whether the #MeToo movement’s centering of white women is why it is successful — and what that means. What are the implications of ignoring women of color like Anita Hill and Tarana Burke? Asked another way, in the words of actress and activist, Gabrielle Union, whose pain does society deem to be intolerable and whose pain does it marginalize? And, will the #MeToo movement extend to the plight of women toiling at factories, in domestic work, and in hotels — and who are primarily women of color? Latina farmworkers foregrounded that question in November when they wrote a letter of solidarity to Hollywood women in which they stated: “[W]e do not work under bright stage lights or on the big screen.” Meaningful solidarity practice means not only that their experiences matter but that they are centered. [Since this essay was published, a group of women have established Time’s Up, an effort to eliminate sexual harassment in all industries; the group specifically addresses the unique situations faced by working class women.
The changing racial demographics of the United States and the pushback on the rights of communities of color demand that we transition from organizational silos to community-based solidarity. As we assess our resistance in 2017 and prepare for another year of fighting back inhumane policies, we should rely upon solidarity practice as an important strategy in the activist toolbox. But, we must also sharpen our solidarity work: we must move beyond race as the single and sole organizing force to bring communities together; we must work within our own communities to lovingly challenge biases as we proclaim unity with other movements; and we must ensure that we are not caught in a cycle of rapid response and emergency postures that end up harming our own people and organizations.
What are the solidarity models and practices that inspire you? What questions are you grappling with in your own solidarity practice? Please send your examples to @solidarity_is and @dviyer so that together, we can document and build an archive of solidarity practices for the year ahead.