In 1970, Black Panther Party co-founder Huey Newton published a communiqué “On the Middle East.” Beyond the important rhetoric of resisting US imperialism and fighting for black liberation is an important solidarity, often overlooked: “We support the Palestinian’s just struggle for liberation one hundred percent. We will go on doing this, and we would like for all of the progressive people of the world to join our ranks in order to make a world in which all people can live.”
Forty-four years later, after the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Black Lives Matter protestors took to the streets of Ferguson to protest police brutality and institutional racism. Met with the full force of a militarized police state, the police used tear gas to silence the protest. In response, Palestinian activists from Gaza tweeted at the Ferguson protestors with advice on dealing with the tear gas.
This type of solidarity has proven crucial in building mass public movements, yet has failed to reach the mainstream of progressivism in the United States. In response to the Black Lives Matter statement condemning the genocide and apartheid in Israel, Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz said “it is a real tragedy that Black Lives Matter – which has done so much good in raising awareness of police abuses – has now moved away from its central mission and has declared war against the nation state of the Jewish people.” Throughout the Democratic Primaries, Hillary Clinton, claiming to be “a progressive who gets things done,” backed away from ample opportunities to embrace Black Lives Matter and condemn Israeli apartheid. The progressive base of the Democratic Party proved in 2016 to be anything but progressive.
A close look at the record will reveal that a police force similar to the police force that has murdered so many innocent black men, women, and children has been torturing and oppressing innocent Palestinian men, women, and children. G4S, the private security corporation that owns and operates private prisons, has not only played a critical role in continuing the Palestinian occupation, but in mass incarceration in the United States and in deporting Mexican immigrants. More recently, G4S has provided security for the Dakota Access Pipeline against the courageous Native American water protectors. What’s important to understand here is that it is the same hierarchy of power and institution that has a hand in the oppression and subjugation of what might seem to be completely different communities throughout the world. The crucial and often inspirational consequence of this shared oppression is the unity and solidarity that oppressed communities have forged for decades. Fighting for equality and justice in one community always means fighting for equality and justice in another.
To gain an understanding for the importance of solidarity movements – movements which understand intersectionality – one need simply look at the women’s rights movement of the 1970s. This movement fought for equal pay, equal opportunity, and equal representation. But what it failed to do is fight for lesbian women, for bisexual women, for transgender women, for black women, for Muslim women, for Native women, and for disabled women. Advocating for white women is ignoring the plight of all women.
The result of this negligence of intersectionality is that today in America, while white women earn $0.82 for every man’s dollar, black women earn $0.65, and Latina women $0.58. The result of this negligence is that today in America, black women have to fight against police brutality without their white sisters. The result of this negligence is that today in America, transgender women of color face discrimination within the LGBTQ community, within the black community, and within the feminist community. Without transnational solidarity movements, so many people who find themselves in a state of compounded oppression would have no safe community to fall back on.
While the political climate on both sides of the ideological spectrum have rejected identity politics and intersectional progressivism, there is a deep desire from political activists and academic scholars across the country to form a new political party that embraces the reality of intersectionality. It is important to support Black Lives Matter. It is important to stand with the LGBTQ community. It is important to confront Islamophobic racism, and it is important to recognize the inevitability of climatic catastrophe. It is insufficient, however, to look at these issues as isolated and single.
The same right-wing government in the United States that seeks to strip away the rights of the LGBTQ community also seeks to institute racist “stop and frisk” policing. The same government that wants to ban Muslims from entering the country also intends to increase military aid to the Israeli government. The same government that ignored the plight of Native American activists in North Dakota also ignores the crumbling planet and the environmental injustice being forced upon many communities.
We cannot, however, exclude the conversation to the right-wing American government. The Democratic Party has ignored the plight of Palestinian activists, Native American activists, and Black Lives Matter activists. Fighting for wage increases and economic justice is necessary, but not sufficient. Bill and Hillary Clinton have both dismissed Black Lives Matter protestors at political rallies. Bernie Sanders refused to support a push for reparations. Barack Obama sat silent during the protests of the water protectors of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Keith Ellison, in advocating for the BDS Movement, has been labeled an anti-Semite by the left.
A straight black man who marches with Black Lives Matter but calls gay people perverts is not a real progressive. A white woman who fights for child care and paid medical leave but believes in reverse racism is not a real progressive. A white gay man who marches at Pride but remains silent when another unarmed black man is murdered by the police is not a real progressive.
The fight to end mass incarceration is the fight to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The fight to end discrimination against the LGBTQ community is the fight to end Islamophobia. The fight to protect Native American land is the fight to combat climate change. The fight for universal healthcare is the fight to address ableism.
If the Democratic Party continues to abandon real progressive justice in all communities throughout the world, it will be knowingly making a decision to ignore the universal struggle for equality. As we enter a new year, we must seek to forge vast networks of solidarity and unity to continue and advance the fight for justice and human rights around the world.