Class Solidarity Isn't Enough.
Updated: Apr 6
The title alone will trigger a lot of people, and I expect to receive backlash from even saying it. But it's true: class solidarity isn't enough. Let's discuss. On the anniversary of the death of Black Panthers Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, I chose to re-watch the movie Judas and the Black Messiah (available on Netflix), which tells the story of Fred Hampton and how he was setup to be assassinated by the FBI. Fred Hampton was a Marxist–Leninist and through these political ideologies, his mission was to bring together all Black, brown and poor people - including white - for a united front against the State and fascism. They called the group The Rainbow Coalition, and their tactic was class solidarity. One of the groups involved were the Young Patriots, an organization of mostly white Southerners who chose their main symbol to be the Confederate Flag. In the movie, members of the Black Panthers are shown walking into a hall where the Young Patriots are holding a meeting and are immediately taken back by the large Confederate Flag hanging behind leader William 'Preacherman' Fesperman. The Young Patriots, though ignorant to the struggles of African Americans prior to their affiliation with the Black Panthers, became allies and accomplices to the fight as they shared a main goal of creating education, housing and medical care for working-class people. The symbol of the Confederate flag later became an infiltration tactic to attract other white Southerners and educate them on the similarities in disparities between Black and white working-class people. However, those still alive and doing the work today condemn its use.
It's a wholesome story, one that so many of us dream of witnessing today - a true united front with one common goal. But is it realistic in the climate of today? Was it realistic even then? The "10-point program of the Patriot Party" from 1969 is something many of us would laugh at now.
This story can be related to that of Daryl Davis who, in "his efforts to fight racism as an African American, he has engaged with members of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), having convinced a number of Klansmen to leave and denounce the KKK." When I began to use my platforms as a way to share information and my own personal experiences, people often said, "you should try to be more like Daryl and maybe you could get somewhere" when they felt I was being too "divisive."
Today, Daryl works to educate people on how to conduct civil discourse to find common ground and build tolerance." But is "tolerance" what we need to become liberated? I know many of us can agree that no, it's not. Tolerance is what keeps us silent. Tolerance is what allows us to push aside the racism, the gaslighting, the microaggressions we face every day in order to "keep the peace" and be "united."
When I began my journey into "activism", I also thought that the only way out of this mess was going to be solidarity between all people - including that of the very white supremacists who were showing up to attack us. Being from rural Alberta - the Texas of Canada - I spent most of 2020 traveling through rural Albertan towns after the murder of George Floyd to hold community conversations surrounding racism, white supremacy and anti-Blackness. It was an interesting experience, to say the least; going into small towns where you can taste the cross-burning energy in the air. Many people are still unaware of the fact that actual KKK members, white hoods and all, still exist in these communities. But you don't have to wear a white hood to still hold these values, as we see with people like Pat King (though, I wouldn't put it past him to have a cloak hanging in a closet somewhere), and white supremacy goes beyond the display of overt racism like using explicit racist language, getting a swastika tattooed on your chest, or public lynchings. White supremacy shows up within every aspect of our society by our thoughts and actions. To the "good white people" reading this: I'm talking to you, too.
During a protest in Innisfail, the one that was first canceled due to racist backlash by locals but ended up continuing on with the support of folks across the province, we met a man named Lonny from Caroline, Alberta who was there in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. He stood to the side, wearing the classic Wrangler denim jeans with a leather belt and large buckle, a pair of cowboy boots and matching hat, and a tie-dye shirt with a print of Bob Marley's face. Quite the ensemble. We were into it. He told us about his upbringing here in Alberta, the beliefs pressured onto him by mainstream media, and his journey in coming to understand the reality Black and non-Black Indigenous Peoples continue to face. It's important to note that Lonny is a man well past the age of 60, growing up in a town known to be a KKK settlement.
My Partner in Revolution, Ms. K, and I spent a considerable amount of time talking with Lonny that day and in the weeks after meeting him, we decided that we would invite Lonny to speak at some of the community discussions we held in an effort to bridge the gaps of understanding within the communities we're visiting. Yeah, Lonny still had a lot to learn. But Lonny also held a perspective that many here in Alberta could relate to, with his presence allowing our voices to be heard by people who wouldn't have necessarily listened before. And, if we're not willing to hold space for people to learn better and do better, then what are we actually doing out here?
Unfortunately, we eventually lost Lonny to the white nationalist movement currently taking place in the name of "freedom". I'm sure this is something many of those reading this can relate to; our friends and loved ones being sucked into the misinformation campaigns surrounding COVID-19 that were created through white supremacist forums like 4Chan to silence the largest civil rights movement in history: The Black Lives Matter movement. Since Lonny, I have come come to learn that the commitment every day white people have to the fight is short lived no matter what they label themselves as, even the more seemingly "progressive" labels like anarchists, leftists, liberals, socialists, communists. Most white people halt their support and involvement the moment they get tired, or the moment they feel threatened when asked to check their own privilege. People would love to think that the majority of people are "good" people, but what does "good" mean? The idea of being a "good person" vs. actually DOING the work of being anti-racist are two very different things. Being "good" is simply being neutral. Niceness is a performance.
Before Fred and before Daryl, there were people like Martin Luther King Jr. who had begun coalition-building between rural white people and middle-class Black people. But it didn't take long for him to understand that intercommunal solidarity wasn't enough, because white people simply could not commit to dismantling the white supremacy they hold within themselves and confronting it within their own communities. I mean, how could you be racist when you have a Black friend, right? How can something be fixed without even being acknowledged?
"First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate."
- Martin Luther King Jr.
Of course, the idea of class solidarity goes far beyond Fred, Daryl or Martin. However, the actions taken in an effort to achieve it have certainly shifted - especially so in the imperial core that is North America. Class solidarity has become a buzz phrase, a term used by white people who are unwilling to do the work of confronting their own biases and anti-Blackness.
As examples: we can see whiteness being centered in movements such as the "feminist" movement, or the movement to end the climate disaster. The actions we're witnessing give the illusion of *all* in mind, but when white women fought and won for their right to vote, their work stopped before Black, Indigenous and other racialized women ever had theirs. And the millions of dollars and hours of time wasted on reversing damage done by climate change? Hi, hey, hello. THE ANWSER IS LAND BACK. Instead, land continues to be colonized and the genocide against Indigenous Peoples globally remains ongoing while white people travel the world to sit around board tables "brainstorming" ways to fix the problem when the solutions have already been given to them. Why is it that racialized people, when fighting in solidarity with all people, are always left behind in the struggle once a certain goal is met? Because these movements center whiteness. Rather than listening to the Black and non-Black Indigenous voices who have been leading these discussions and movements for hundreds of years, we are often forced to "tolerate" what we can in the guise of freedom for *all*. We are forced to accept the crumbs that trickle down to us from the rights others receive. It's the "trickle down economics" of social change, and I don't want it. I want liberation.
The Theories millions of people choose to live their lives by, such as those provided to us by Karl Marx, teach us that class solidarity is the only way out. The "chicken or the egg" idea often comes to mind in these discussions, because - thanks to white men like Karl Max - people believe class struggle was our first problem; that since the idea of separating citizens through wealth inequities came first and the tactics used to achieve it came second, then the tactics such as colonialism and the teaching of white supremacy through the construct of race all becomes secondary; they see capitalism as the root, which centers whiteness and allows white people to see themselves as those effected which, in turn, makes them feel motivated to even get involved in the first place. Yes, race was created as a tool used to create and uphold capitalism. But if we're not going to be real with ourselves on the fact biases existed long before, that the very idea of superiority between people based on features and physical differences could even be successful in carrying out the plan.. we're fooling ourselves. White supremacy and anti-Blackness was the glue needed to hold capitalism and imperialism together, and in 2022 it's stronger than ever. Without centering the voices, the ideas, the needs of Black and non-Black Indigenous Peoples, we will continue to run in circles. What is class solidarity when those most marginalized in our society continue to be pushed from the solutions and the benefits? If we were able to eradicate capitalism tomorrow, this system would repeat itself based on the simple fact superiority exists within our minds, and thoughts have power.
"Taylor McNallie dedicates her time to seeking racial justice and collective liberation through education and hands-on work with both marginalized communities and allies alike. As the co-creator of Inclusive Canada, she provides education on anti-racism, white supremacy, and anti-Blackness. She is also a member of the Walls Down Collective which provides access to no-barrier resources and care such as Harm Reduction, free food programs and an alternative to local policing."
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