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non-Black POC Solidarity

swetha's picture

In the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, I think this year at Bryn Mawr has been marked by a lot of thought around how the movement manifests itself on campus. As a former president of the South Asian affinity group on campus, it was particularly interesting to me how affinity groups on campus responded to the various events on campus surrounding the Confederate flag and the Mainline demonstration. At the time of the Confederate flag incident, many affinity groups were just warming up to new executive boards and new initiatives for the year. However, the campus-wide demonstration and plannings meetings leading up to it were cause for tension among some of the affinity groups, specifically the South Asian and Asian American groups. I think this had a lot to do with the fact that the Confederate flag is tied to a story of slavery and black/white racism, whereas the lived experiences of the South Asian/Asian American students were more linked to the immigrant experience and racism tied to xenophobia. This disconnect in experiences had created a weird rift almost within campus where I think a lot of members of the South Asian/Asian American affinity groups felt less of a need to support the work and effort being put in by Black students on campus. This struck me most when the president of the South Asian affinity group said to me, "I don't think it's my role to do anything in this situation." 

This was so disheartening to hear. The need for non-Black POC solidarity should have been stronger in that time of "crisis" than ever, and yet there were so many students who felt they could distance themselves from the situation simply because they didn't fit into the black/white binary. How could we get non-Black POC to care about a struggle against racism not directly aimed at them? How could others not instinctively care? What are effective ways for non-Black POC to show interest and action without co-opting the movement? What does solidarity look like in that case?


jccohen's picture


I appreciate your thinking on this topic - one that has come to my attention as well both in the classroom and in informal contexts.  Are these issues that non-Black POC on campus could (and/or do) discuss?  It seems to me understandable that the black-white binary in this country has contributed to various hierarchies, including these concerns about whose issues are taken more seriously/deserve more attention and support, and I've heard about some productive efforts (outside the Bi-Co) where non-Black POC have come together to acknowledge, challenge, and try to move through these issues - toward the kind of solidarity you're talking about here.  And on the other hand, I like a lot your question about how to show solidarity with "co-opting" - something white people also need to work on of course.