Ep. 19: Building Coalitions (w/ Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor)

Ep. 19: Building Coalitions (w/ Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor)

Professor and author Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor joins Briahna for a conversation about solidarity, intersectionality, and how both concepts are important parts of building a political coalition.

How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective on Haymarket Books: https://www.haymarketbooks.org/books/1108-how-we-get-free

"Solidarity Forever" by Hollow Sidewalks licensed under CC BY 3.0.


Briahna Joy Gray:  Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison died last week, at the age of 88. Novels like “Beloved” and “The Bluest Eye” established her as one of America’s greatest writers. Someone who captured truths about our broadly shared humanity, without flinching away from the visceral specificity of the black American experience. 

I’m thinking about Morrison this week not just because of her passing though, but because of her politics. Morrison didn’t write in a vacuum. As an editor at Random House, she published black radical activists, like Angela Davis and Huey P Newton. And importantly, for the purposes of this episode, she advocated for inclusion and solidarity, in the context of the movements of her time. 

In 1981, she delivered a speech at the American Writers’ Congress that called on writers to join in solidarity against often harsh and isolating conditions in the publishing industry. Morrison said, “Romanticized and misapplied, individualism keeps us self-indulgent. It keeps us ignorant of contracts, of money, of benefits, of rights, of how the partnership between author and publisher ought to work, of the areas that threaten both publisher and writer.” She went on to say, “The political philosophy of the country chants love of individualism. The nature of our work makes us prize it. The corporate compulsion of the industry fosters it, but it is not as individuals that we are abused and silenced. It is as writers. We need protection in the form of structure. An accessible organization that is truly representative of the diverse interests of all writers. An organization committed to the rights of the few. And we need protection in the form of clarity. A knowledge of the limits of individualism and the private, indulgent suffering it fosters.” 

Of course, the context that compels me currently isn’t that of authorship. That was my last job. But her larger point about the power of the collective over the romanticized notion of the individual, I think it applies equally to politics. Bernie says frequently that only the unified power of millions stands a chance at defeating the powerful interests in this country. There’s another word for that kind of mass unity, people supporting one another in their political battles. A term that comes from the long history of labor struggle. That word is solidarity. 

This is Hear the Bern. A podcast about the people, ideas, and politics that are driving the Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign and the movement to secure a dignified life for everyone living in this country. My name is Briahna Joy Gray, and this week I’m coming to you from campaign headquarters in Washington, D.C.

This week is all about solidarity. I spoke to Princeton Professor and author Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor about what solidarity and intersectionality have to say to one another, and how we can build a movement that joins together all the unique experiences of oppression that people face into an overarching fight for justice, rather than, to paraphrase Toni Morrison, suffer powerlessly as individuals. 

I want to recognize that in some ways Americans feel more splintered and atomized than ever. The right has turned terms like “identity politics” and “intersectionality” into public enemy number one. Claiming that the left is all about creating hierarchies of oppression that void the experiences of straight white men. And if you spend any time on Twitter, it seems like some liberals have a weirdly similar understanding of intersectionality, that it’s about who has a right to speak rather than the value of hearing about all of our differences. 

But Dr. Taylor, a professor of African American studies, and crucially a leftist, is somewhat of an expert on the intended meaning of those terms and wrote about them in a 2017 book called “How We Get Free,” all about the women who coined them. In the mid to late 1970s, a small group of radical black women began to organize in Boston under the name The Combahee River Collective. 

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor:  This small collective of women who called themselves the Combahee River Collective after Harriet Tubman, who performed a raid at the Combahee River in South Carolina that freed over 700 slaves, which is important in and of itself as a statement that they saw themselves as fusing radical politics with activity, that they weren’t just a talk shop, if you will. 

Briahna Joy Gray:  The group is best known today for its Combahee River Collective Statement which coined the term “identity politics” and called for the development of integrated analysis and practice, based upon the fact that the major systems of oppression are interlocking. 

So, in layman’s terms, they thought that neither white-led feminism or male-led black liberation movements could adequately speak to their own unique experiences as black women. Later in the 1980s, Kimberlé Crenshaw coined another term for a similar concept, “intersectionality.” The idea remained largely in the province of academics and activists until just in the last few years it suddenly became a topic of debate in presidential politics and right-wing news sources. 

Tucker Carlson:  Back then, sexual politics seemed more important than race politics. And now, it’s the other way around. It’s the never-ending car crash of intersectionality. 

Ben Shapiro:  You see, your opinion only matters relative to your identity, and where that identity ranks on the hierarchy of intersectionality. Intersectionality is a form of identity politics in which the value of your opinion depends on how many victim groups you belong to.

Briahna Joy Gray:  So unsurprisingly, Tucker Carlson and Ben Shapiro are wrong. Intersectionality is merely a term for the reality that who we are affects the lens through which we view things. Much the same way an architect might view New York City buildings differently than a layman or someone from a small town, one’s experiences as a man or a straight person or an able-bodied person or even someone from the south, might affect one’s perspective. Pretty uncontroversial, right?

So why does this pretty self-evident concept matter? Well movements which fight for rights for large umbrella groups haven’t always appreciated that some of their members have concerns that aren’t well-represented among the whole. Think of it this way. You can imagine how a wealthy, white, gay man might have different political priorities than a low-income, black, trans women, even though they both fall under the broad umbrella LGBTQIA. The priorities for the former might lean toward issues like social acceptance, media representation, or on-the-job discrimination, while the needs of the latter might include those things, but extend more broadly. Like for instance, access to housing, healthcare, or employment. 

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor:  These women were asked to write a statement explaining their politics to other white feminists who had been organized through a socialist feminist collective, and so they were asked to write a statement about what was different about black feminism compared to mainstream feminism and compared to socialist feminism. Some of the main ideas around which they organized the statement were, one was recognizing the particular ways that black women experienced oppression. 

And this was important in their context, because at the sort of peak of the second wave of the feminist movement, and at the height of the black power movement, they found that their experiences as black women were not being taken up. And concretely, it meant that within the feminist movement, there was a great emphasis on things like career mobility. Even in the realm of abortion rights, that was an important site of struggle, but it didn’t necessarily take up the issue of sterilization which was a particular burden borne by black and Puerto Rican women in the United States and in Puerto Rico. And so, they wanted to bring the experiences of black women more centrally into the focus of the various social movements that existed at the time. 

The other important contribution I think that the statement makes is that these women saw themselves as part of a socialist movement, which I think is important because often there’s a popular mythology that socialism is something that is of interest to white people, to white men in particular, and that this is not something that is particularly appealing to African Americans or to black people more generally. The Black Panther Party was an avowed socialist organization. It was one of the largest political organizations of the 20th century. 

And so these women saw themselves as part of the socialist movement, but they said that socialism, socialist organization, had to take up their particular issues, that their issues as black women, whether it was issues around sterilization, whether it was the demonization of welfare, and other forms of social provision from the state, whether it was domestic violence, whether it was the appallingly low wages and lack of healthcare access even in the 1970s. That these were issues that in some ways could be construed as (inaudible) to working class people, but that black women suffered disproportionately in terms of a lack of access to, or the ways in which they were demonized for trying to access. 

And so, they wanted to make clear that we are socialists, but the socialist movement must do a better job of understanding the ways that we experience oppression and exploitation. 

Briahna Joy Gray:  But here’s the important point. The one that Shapiro et al on the right, and some well-meaning liberals, miss. The point of intersectionality isn’t to divide us up. It’s to provide a basis for mutual understanding, respect and yes, solidarity. 

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor:  But for these women in particular, they wanted to make common cause with women in other countries around the world for whom the United States was either engaged in some kind of covert or overt war situation, but also in the spirit of what brings me to the last contribution of coalition, of solidarity. And so this is a very important strain that runs through both their organizing but also their political commitments, was the understanding that in order for black people to win, in order for black people to successfully defeat the forces of oppression and exploitation, that they could not do that alone. 

Black people had to do that in coalition with other groups of people who either experienced some form of oppression themselves or who understand the ways, even if they didn’t experience that oppression, they understood that the oppression of African Americans, the exploitation of African Americans, was central to holding together a system that did not serve them well either. A combination of those ideas in politics is what made the statement so powerful. 

What is important is the political legacy that was created by the statement, its insightfulness, the way that it is useful for people who are engaged in organizing and political struggle today to understand the nature of the problem. The ways that even an oppressed minority population, through a collective struggle with other people, can be put in the position to stand up to the most powerful forces in the world. 

Briahna Joy Gray:  Professor Taylor explained that for marginalized groups to succeed, large groups of people had to understand what they had in common to fight for shared goals. And at the same time, to keep the coalition coherent, they had to recognize and identify their differences, so that subgroups within the whole did not become further disadvantaged and less committed to the coalition. I asked Professor Taylor what she thought of how the term has been taken up in popular culture today. 

Feel free to disagree with me, but from my perspective it seems to be adopted as a way to signal an understanding that there are different groups with different interests, but without the coalition-building aspect, it was taken up as a way to say, “Various groups have needs,” but without the piece that says, “There are overlapping and intersecting needs, that if we identify that are shared, can form a basis for coalition-building and kind of mutual support.” 

And at the same time as that was happening, the right took that injection to the mainstream and said, “Oh intersectionality is all just about pointing out that you’re different from you and you’re different from you, and there’s a hierarchy of oppression, and the whole point of intersectionality is just to explain to me, a white man, why my problems don’t matter.” And I think there was this interesting way that these two approaches fed into each other, and I want to know what you make of how the mainstream, whether it’s kind of the right mainstream or the left mainstream, is kind of talking about and perhaps misunderstanding what the underlying concept is all about today. 

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor:  I think that intersectionality as a concept, in some ways it’s a way of describing a social phenomenon, which is that there could be multiple things happening at the same time that are worth paying attention to and not just reducing them to the lowest common denominator. But I think it became a way of, if you’re more cynical about some of their motives, it’s just almost a way of virtue signaling: we know that women of color use this term and so we’re going to use this term to show or demonstrate that we have some particular insight or relationship to black women in particular. 

And so in this context, and the way that it’s kind of bandied about as a shorthand, it really misses the power of understanding that the whole point of looking at the particularity of black women’s oppression is to gain insight into really the depths of oppression and exploitation in capitalist society and US society. Which is intended to signal to us the depths of which of organizing and social transformation that need to happen to attend to that. 

Briahna Joy Gray:  She noted that one significant omission that is made in the intersectionality analysis as it’s used popularly today is the role of class. 

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor:  This is a part of the national identity of the United States. We’re a classless society. We’re a society that is based on unfettered social mobility. All you have to do is work hard to achieve the American dream. The erasure of class and class difference has been a part of the ethos of the United States since its foundation. And so, I think in some ways, it matters who you’re looking at and who you’re talking to. 

For liberals, the issue is always about greater inclusion, that the problems in our society are rooted in exclusion, that if we simply integrate more people into the largesse of the United States, then everyone can benefit from that, and that doesn’t allow for any interrogation of the institutions itself that are being argued that we just need to be absorbed into. And it’s when you look at the institutions that you see the sharp class differences, and so there’s a long history of class conflict in the United States. There’s a shorter history of organizing on the basis of class as a central aspect of organizing as a way to initiate a process of social transformation. 

Briahna Joy Gray:  As we discussed in episode ten of this podcast, organizing on class lines was the basis of incredible gains for working people through the labor movement. For union members, the racial income gap narrowed dramatically during this time, diminishing to nearly zero between black and white women. Of course, people of color and women had to do particular advocacy to enjoy the same rights, privileges, and benefits of union membership in the first place. 

Without the civil rights and women’s rights movements, gains for people of color and women and the labor rights movement would have been seriously dampened. Of course, fighting for class equality alone is not enough. But the lesson here is that it, along with advocacy for particular groups, is crucial to forming the kinds of broad coalitions that are needed to make progress in a pluralistic and grossly unequal society. This is why the idea of a mass movement, of coalition-building, is so important to this campaign. 

Bernie Sanders:  The way we win is when ordinary people understand that for the future of their own lives and the future of this country and the future of the planet, you cannot sit it out. The antidote to what Trump stands for is for millions and millions of people to get involved in the political process in a way that we have never seen before. 

Briahna Joy Gray:  Now my observation has been that there’s a certain degree of skepticism about coalition-building in this country. And it’s understandable, especially given the racism of the current president, who presides over crowds of supporters shouting to send back American congresswomen, who describes immigrants as “invaders” so often that the word has made its way into the manifesto of a mass killer who targeted Latino immigrants. And a man who got elected on the explicit promise of establishing an immigration policy that excluded Muslims. It feels bleak. I get it. How is it possible, one might think, to build a coalition which advocates for substantive rights and equality, but which could also include a Trump voter? But here’s the thing; it’s been done before, and by a black man. 

In 2016, Hillary Clinton won just 75% of the white voters who voted for Obama. The reasons the press focuses on Obama to Trump voters are myriad, and they’re not all good. But it is true that losing a significant portion of the white vote was fatal to the Democratic Party’s efforts in 2016. And Obama was hardly the first person to successfully build a multiracial, progressive coalition, and to not do so by pandering to racism. 

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor:  Part of it is because we live in an abjectly racist and sexist society where people feel like the potential of solidarity doesn’t exist. There are not very many examples outside of oneself that you can point to, meaning successful social movements that have been able to organize on a multiracial, multiethnic, multi-gender basis. The result of part of that is that you think that it’s not possible, and so you draw very different conclusions than the Combahee, who were organizing at a time where there’s still the politics of nationalism and separatism, but there are things that you can point to that show that multiracial organizing is at least possible, that solidarity between different groups of people from different countries let alone different groups of people within a single country, where that was possible. 

Cornel West:  Part of the problem with talking about race in America, this is why I’ve been very critical of a number of contemporary black intellectuals, because white supremacy cuts so deep in the culture, people begin to think it has magical powers. 

Briahna Joy Gray:  That’s Dr. Cornel West, talking on the Joe Rogan podcast a couple of weeks ago. Dr. West identified a lack of structural, class-based or economic critique as part of why cross-racial solidarity seems so unlikely to some. 

Cornel West:  It just floats above American history, as if it’s just part of our DNA in a biological way. But all conceptions of race in the modern world are grounded in predatory capitalism, so that the talk about whiteness and blackness becomes a way of rationalizing social structures like slavery and Jim Crow and it has to do with trying to extract labor, resources. It’s an attack on their humanity and identity, but it’s tied to economic structure. So, to talk only about race means we hide and conceal the social structures that are generating unbelievable suffering for everybody. Everybody. 

Briahna Joy Gray:  Here’s Keeanga again. 

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor:  To me, it’s not surprising in the early 70s that people were optimistic about this, because they had the example of the Civil Rights Movement. They had the example of the anti-war movement, and it’s not to say that these were movements in which the internal politics were not… The issues of racism and certainly sexism, I mean this is part of the reason why the Combahee formed, because of sexism in the black movement and racism in the feminist movement. And yet at the same time, I think in some ways because of the vastness of the political struggle, that it wasn’t just a couple of demonstrations here or a couple of demonstrations there. But there really by the end of the 1960s was a global rebellion against capitalism and all of its contradictions and all of its problems that raised the political level, the expectation and the belief that these people could change the world. 

And so, we don’t have that. We’re coming out of a complete destruction of the left. I mean, this is part of the legacy of the 1970s, is you get the utter destruction of the left. So, you think about the Black Panther Party, which argued a politics of interracial solidarity. We don’t hate white people, we hate capitalism. And what happened to them? And what happened to them? They were imprisoned. They were murdered. Or they were hectored into exile. 

And that wasn’t just for the purposes of revenge, it was because it was necessary to bury the legacy of that particular kind of political radicalism, which was not just about… I mean, there’s a showy aspect but it wasn’t just about showing off. It was a politics that was much more ingrained in seriousness and understanding that black people alone cannot liberate ourselves in this country. And so, they buried that. And we are living with the consequences of the attack on the left at the end of the 1970s and 80s. In addition to the absolute gutting of people’s lives in combination with that. Through the 1980s, through economic crisis, through mass incarceration. 

For me, this is not hyperbole. This is why, when you look at Ferguson, why did women play a disproportionate role? Because all the fucking men are either in jail or dead. The New York Times did a front-page story on the missing men, the missing men of black America. And so, this plays a great deal in whether or not one, you think any kind of social change is possible. This is where the pessimism comes from. You’ve seen social annihilation. Social obliteration. And so that is what a lot of this is rooted in. We can’t look to anyone else. We have to look to ourselves, because look at what has happened around us. 

And so that’s when you need some sense of history and a connection to a different kind of past to think that a different kind of reality is possible, which is why I’m not pessimistic. There’s a combination of understanding that we can’t do this by ourselves. Latinx people can’t do it by themselves. Trans women of color can’t do it by themselves. LGBT people can’t do it by themselves. And so all of these disparate groups exist in different ways of experiencing oppression, exploitation. That is the basis upon which we have to argue for solidarity, on the one hand. 

On the other hand, and I talk about this in my “Black Lives Matter” book, that racism for example. Racism is black people’s problem, black people’s burden, but it’s also white people’s problem. And what I mean is that if this government spends 80 billion dollars a year maintaining a racist criminal justice system, that’s not just black people’s problem even though it disproportionately is, but it’s white people’s problem as well. And so that creates a concrete basis upon which ordinary white people have an interest in a system that does not invest 80 billion dollars in keeping black people in cages. 

Even though yes, there are white people who are killed by the police. There are white people who are in prison. But they use the face of black people to justify setting up that system in the first place. You look at immigration and the way that the leaders of this country are normalizing caging people, imprisoning people, stripping people of any of their rights, stripping people of habeas corpus. It’s about attacking people on the border and it’s about racism. It’s also about normalizing this. And that’s not just for the people on the border. That is for anyone who will dare to resist what the rich and the powerful in this country want to do, in the same way that they had no problem attacking the mostly white encampments of Occupy protesters in the winter of 2012. 

They set the stage for that with the security state after 9/11. They set the stage for that by justifying the expansion of a security state through Islamophobia and racism. But they are willing to use it on white people who also dare to stand up at a moment’s notice. And so this is why even when people experience different levels of oppression and exploitation, which is to say that it’s not all the same, and in many ways white people have advantages obviously in this country, but not so much that it’s better to stay with the status quo than it is to organize with other people to create a different kind of society. 

Briahna Joy Gray:  Last week, Bernie Sanders also went on Joe Rogan’s podcast, and some people on the left objected, as Rogan has hosted folks from across the ideological spectrum including some folks on the right who have some beliefs which, shall we say, are not to my taste. But Rogan, a former MMA personality and comedian, attracts a large and ideologically diverse audience. His podcast is the most popular one in the entire country, and Bernie Sanders’ episode is currently on track to be one of the most watched/listened to episodes ever, at seven million views in just a few days. 

Even more important than the number of raw views, though, are the comments in the comment section. Now you might have heard that YouTube comment sections can be brutal. They’re anonymous spaces where folks routinely spew unfiltered racism, sexism, and hate. But the comments under Bernie’s video? Well, here’s a sample.

James Wisrik wrote, “I only agree with 24% of what he wants, but it weighs more than the other 75%. He has my vote.” Another poster wrote, “I’m a right-wing liberal with plenty of libertarian values, but I like Sanders. He seems like he genuinely cares about the American people.” Geoffrey Cramer posted, “All I ever knew about Bernie was what Rush and Fox say. The man’s ideas aren’t very frightening. I’m disappointed in myself for what I did to contribute to the fake news on him. I’ve never heard a politician speak and be real about everything. Everything.” 

Another poster said, “Thank you Joe, for making this happen. I was blindly gravitating toward disliking Bernie, but after watching this, I find myself agreeing with him with most of these problems.” “I always thought Bernie was this crazy person trying to make everything free,” said Noor Nasri. “I feel kind of stupid now.” And Dexster Adair summed it up best. “Never would have thought I would see so many from different backgrounds agreeing on politics in a YouTube thread. This really does give me hope for humanity and politics in the US.”

Now this isn’t the first time Bernie’s efforts to speak across the aisle have been criticized. 

Speaker 1:  To Fox or not to Fox is a lightning rod issue in the Democratic Primary. 

Speaker 2:  Democratic candidates, this is obviously a complex issue. No wait, I’m sorry it’s not. You do not have to go on Fox News. If you play along with Fox, you don’t look principled or bipartisan. You just look stupid. 

Speaker 3:  He’s also pissed off a lot of Democratic operatives for elevating a news network that they feel is inherently biased against the Democrats. 

Speaker 4:  But it just goes to show once again that he’s not a team player. By going on Fox News, basically what Bernie Sanders is saying is that all that is okay, and has undermined efforts to marginalize Fox to where it belongs. 

Speaker 5:  Why would Democrats have even considered going on Fox in the first place?

Briahna Joy Gray:  But we all remember that his Fox News Town Hall actually went really well. Not only was it the highest viewed Town Hall of this election cycle to date, it inspired one of the most viral moments of any campaign. 

Speaker 6:  I want to ask the audience a question. If you could raise your hand here, a show of hands of how many people get their insurance from work? Private insurance, right now. How many get it from private insurance? 

Okay. Now of those, how many are willing to transition to what the Senator says, a government-run system?

Briahna Joy Gray:  Bernie Sanders completely flipped the expectations of not only liberal audiences but conservative news hosts as well. By going into that space, he revealed a significant gap between the interests and desires of Fox News watchers and those of Fox News pundits. Liberals often note the extent to which low-income and working-class conservative voters vote against their own interests. Rejecting Medicaid expansion, for instance, in some of the poorest reddest states in the country. But if we’re interested in making that case and convincing voters rather than just feeling smug about it, we have to reach them. Coalition-building starts with communication. 

I understand why folks are skeptical of politicians who speak to audiences who at best ignored or at worst embraced bigoted ideologies in the past. Historically, politicians seeking votes from these populations have chosen to recruit voters by some combination of throwing marginalized groups under the bus or by actively indulging in racist dog-whistling themselves. Democrats as well as Republicans have advanced tough-on-crime policies, cut welfare, and threatened to cut social security, all in the name of courting some fictional middle. But that’s not the only way. 

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor:  One is understanding that the relationship between Trump’s fake populism, Trump’s racist invective, the relationship between that and Trump’s agenda, I don’t think that they’re separate. I think that the abject, explicit racism is connected at least for him and the Republicans with the ability to then deliver the largest tax cut to rich people in two generations. That it’s connected to stacking the courts with right-wing judges. It’s connected to this clear strategy of transferring wealth from the bottom of society to the top. I don’t think that those things are disconnected at all. I think that they see them, that racism is the way for Trump and the Republicans to wage class warfare, and they’ve done it very successfully. 

I think that for our side, one we need our side to be organized around what for me are clear politics, which is that you can’t win ordinary white working-class people to this social democratic framework by ignoring race. And that you also can’t win black people, black working-class people. Most black people are working class. You cannot win them by also telling them to put their issues on the back burner, because we’re in a white majority country and we have to win those people over. You have to be able to articulate how these things are connected. 

We can see that racial profiling is a policing strategy invented for black people. There’s a movement in the late 90s that calls it “driving while black,” that targets the issue of racial profiling that is then quickly after 9/11 supplanted to use Arabs and Muslims, and that becomes an acceptable use of it. When you allow racism to exist for one group, understand that it can be weaponized for all. So, the same thing that I was talking about with the border, the billions of dollars that are going to police the border, to control the border, to imprison people on the border. That is about normalizing that for our greater society, to make it easier to do that to citizens. 

And I think that for some of the activists who talk about white privilege or the ways that racism benefits white people in a very angular and narrow way can also miss what is happening to ordinary white people in this country. You literally have white people who are drinking and drugging themselves to death, because life in this country is becoming so miserable, in this great economy. When everything is statistically supposed to be going so well, we have a situation now where the life expectancy of working-class white people has gone into reverse. They are dying younger. This does not happen in the developed world. In the developing world, life expectancy does not reverse. And it’s being driven by suicide, opioid abuse, and alcoholism. This is not pie in the sky, isn’t it great to be white in America? 

And so there has to be a political argument that links those two scenarios. Deaths by despair in white communities on the one hand, and the way in which there’s death by despair, whether it’s gun violence, whether it’s police violence, whether it’s 55% of black workers subsisting on less than $15 an hour. So even where the advantages may be greater, the issue is whether or not this system that allows a parasitic minority to live life like none of us could ever imagine, to have more money than they actually know what to do with, while the rest of us are trying to figure out how to survive from one day to a next. Do we have more of an opportunity to create a society where we can all live together, or continue the way that things are currently organized? 

I think that struggle is a way in which the mythologies and all the things that we’re told about each other have a way of breaking down. It’s hard to think that black people are culturally and biologically inferior when they are literally being killed for the right to vote. When they are dressing up in suits and ties to have the same rights as any other American citizen. It’s hard to believe that. Or even, if you go back and look at some of the polling that was done in the weeks after the Detroit and Newark uprisings in 1967, where everyone talks about the backlash. The backlash was organized. Because if you go back and look at the polls of what white people thought, they’re like, “We need a WPA. We need a new New Deal.” And agreeing to all these kinds of social programs that then the political class walks you back from, and injects all of these explanations for why that doesn’t work. 

So, I think for me again, it’s ideas are fluid. Politics are fluid. They are not a single set thing in stone that you think one thing from the time you’re raised for the rest of your life. People are impacted by social movements. They’re impacted by struggle. They’re impacted by things that they read and encounter in life, and we need a political movement that is able to forcefully argue what the root of these problems are and the way that we get out of them is through a unified struggle and not by denying the experiences of different groups of people, but seeing how they’re all connected, both in misery but also in the potential for transformation. 

Briahna Joy Gray:  A politician willing to upset big money donors can attract voters who might not align on all issues by appealing to working class or low-income economic interests. There’s a big difference between Bill Clinton courting white voters by attending the execution of an intellectually disabled black prisoner, and Bernie Sanders articulating what so many of us know. That Trump does not in fact represent the interests of the white working class. 

When Bernie did that on Joe Rogan, it was the first time for many listeners that they had ever been pitched on an ideology which both spoke to them and which wasn’t imbued with hate. It’s the difference between pandering to racists and presenting a worldview which shows their concerns can be meaningfully addressed without resorting to bigotry at all. 

Solidarity, like intersectionality, doesn’t require us to ignore real and important differences. In fact, articulating those differences can be part of an effort to help groups with different needs accomplish broadly shared goals, by increasing the people power behind ideas. This is the work of this campaign. This is the spirit behind not me, us. And this, this is why we’re going to win.

That’s it for this week. Let us know what you think at [email protected]. Or send us a Tweet with the hashtag #hearthebern. If you haven’t already, please take a moment to rate, review, or like us on Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, or wherever you’re listening. As always, transcripts will be up soon. Till next time. 

Toni Morrison:  I was writing and I can’t write, and I was talking about what had happened politically that had made me so, as you say, paralyzed or not doing it or not thinking about it, and he started screaming. “No, no, no no no no. This is the time when artists go to work. Not when everything is all right. Not when it looks sunny. It’s when it’s hard.”