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Solidarity for Survival

An Interview with Ian Haney López

In this conversation, UC Berkeley law professor Ian Haney López discusses his new book, Merge Left, about the ways in which activists can challenge the divide-and-conquer tactics of corporate politicians and build a multiracial supermajority. 

April 30, 2020  |  Toward Solidarity

Listen to the Interview

00:00 / 48:45

This week I had the honor of interviewing Ian Haney López, a UC Berkeley law professor who has written about the ways in which corporate-financed politicians have used coded racism–terms like "welfare queens," "super-predators," and "illegals"–to stoke white racial fear, rise to power, and create an economy that works for no one but the rich. 

Shortly after Trump's election, Haney López co-founded "The Race-Class Narrative Project," a research initiative that, through thousands of interviews, cemented a clear method for countering this strategy and building a mass, multiracial political alignment. He has shared these findings in his new book, Merge Left: Fusing Race and Class, Winning Elections, and Saving America. In our conversation, we discuss the book. He describes how activists on the left must understand how racism fuels the corporate domination of all working people and "deeply internalize" the truth that all of our survival depends on our ability to cultivate cross-racial solidarity. 




Ian Haney López: Well what happens to our political imagination, to our ability to form coalitions, if we shift our thinking? If we pivot to recognizing that racism is fundamentally a weapon of the rich against all of us? I emphasize the word "fundamentally" because I don't want to deny that there is white racism against people of color. That's there. What I want to emphasize is, what's underneath it? Who's funding it? Who's training it? Who's spreading it? Who benefits from it? And how do they profit from that racism?

David Dean: This week I had the honor of interviewing Ian Haney López, a law professor at UC Berkeley who has written about the ways that corporate-financed politicians have used coded-racism– terms like "welfare queens," "super-predators," and "illegals"–to stoke white racial fear, rise to power, and create an economy that works for no one but the rich. 

IHL: The people funding all of that, those are the wealthiest elements of our society. They're the largest corporations. And why are they doing this? Partly prejudice. But much more–it's because they've come to understand that the way concentrated wealth rules a democracy is by promoting social division. Money power dominating people power by making sure people can't come together. And the number one way they fracture social solidarity is racial division.

DD: Shortly after Trump's election, Haney López co-founded "The Race-Class Narrative Project," a research initiative that, through thousands of interviews, cemented a clear method for countering this strategy and building a mass multiracial political alignment. He's shared these findings in his new book, Merge Left: Fusing Race and Class, Winning Elections, and Saving America. In this interview, we talk about lessons from the book. He describes how those of us on the left must internalize and uplift a message that names the use of racism as a divide and conquer tool, and illustrates the connection between white supremacy and the corporate domination of all working people.  

IHL: What you end up with is a unifying story for the left that says, whatever your issue, their number one strategy is divide and conquer and our number one response is unite and build. That is true for economic populism, but it's also true for ending mass incarceration. It's also true for saving the environment. Everything we want to do depends on people power. People power depends on cross-racial solidarity. The Right knows this. So we need to know it, too. 


DD: Well thanks again so much for being here, Ian. The first thing that I’d love to ask you has to do with how you came to this perspective. I’ve always found it really powerful when working with white folks and also activists in general, when they really start to get this concept that while those of us who are white have comparative advantage under this system of racial capitalism, that we also have a life or death stake in ending it, or transforming it. 


And so I’m curious how you personally transitioned from this understanding that racism is simply a conflict of whites versus non-whites, as you’ve said, to that deeper understanding about how it is also a tool of the rich to harm all of us. I'm curious, what did that transition look like for you personally? How were you resistant to new understandings? And what did that story look like in general? 


IHL: Yeah, so I actually started studying and thinking about race and racism since I was a student and for a couple of decades as a professor within a paradigm that understood race or racism as primarily a conflict between, not just a conflict, primarily a hierarchy of whites over people of color. But that was really called into question by the election of Obama and by governance under Obama. And not in the typical way. It was obvious to me as a student of racism that we had not suddenly become post-racial. 


Instead, the limitations of a white over non-white framework were pushed to the fore in thinking through mass incarceration and continued police violence against communities of color under the Obama administration. And even more so, by the Obama administration’s move to ramp up levels of deportation to heights not previously seen by this country, and to do so in a racially coded way. The Obama administration really targeted Latinos on the southern border in a way that was disproportionate to the number of undocumented people who are Latino and to the number of undocumented people who enter the country via the southern border versus arriving from Europe or from Asia on visas and overstaying. 


So here you had the election of the first black president, someone who’s clearly racially progressive and at the same time his administration is continuing massive state violence against black communities, and ramping up state violence against Latino communities. What could possibly explain that? A simple story of “this is white racism against people of color” simply fails to explain this deep contradiction. Especially from a racial justice point of view, I want to end mass incarceration, I want to end mass deportation, but how can I end them if I don’t understand what’s driving them, what’s producing them?  So that was really the moment that my views on race became destabilized — where I had to turn back and say, “I don’t think I actually understand what’s happening here. The model that I’m using can’t explain what’s happening, and that means it can’t provide a way forward, either." 


So that was really when I started to think, well, what is Obama doing? What’s he reacting to? And it became pretty clear that he was making political decisions. But it also became immediately clear that to say the root problem was politics was not to deny that racism played a role, but was rather to recognize that so much of politics is deeply invested in racism. For me that was the epiphany: the moment where I saw that American electoral politics over the last 50 years has been defined in its relationship to racism against people of color. And once I saw that this is politics, not politics independent of racism, but racism as politics, that then produced a whole set of questions and in turn a whole set of strategies and responses. If it was politics, why was it politics? Where had it come from? And it turns out that you can see its origins pretty clearly. 

The Republican Party, the party of big business, had historically also been associated with civil rights, Abraham Lincoln, opposition to slavery. But in the context of the 1960s civil rights movement, they realized they could actually take advantage of rising racial anxiety triggered by the prospect of racial integration and black equality. And that’s what they started to do—you can trace that from Richard Nixon, to Ronald Reagan, all the way through to McCain and Romney. But in the context of shifting to racism as a wedge issue to break apart the white working class and African Americans and liberals, the Republican Party did not stop being the party of big business. They remained the party of big business, they simply shifted to adopting racism as a strategy to win elections. 


Indeed, they fused the two. They fused racism to a story about government that helped build popular opposition to activist government–to government programs for instance that helped all working families–and that helped build popular support for the sort of government policies that actually facilitate rule by the rich. This is a story that gets a little complicated but is at the core of what’s been happening over the last 50 years. 


The right essentially developed a narrative that they promoted, rooted in race, but also tied to government and the marketplace. So you can’t separate out any of these three. Race, the marketplace, and government are fused in people’s imagination. Because what the right has been saying for 50 years is, “Hey voters, you should resent and fear people of color. Resent them because they’re welfare cheats. Fear them because they’re inherently dangerous." 


"But beyond resenting and fearing people of color, you should really hate government, because it’s government that’s betrayed you. It’s government programs that they say are for everybody, but are really giveaways to these undeserving people. It’s government that fails to protect you against these dangerous people. It gives more rights to criminals than to victims, for instance. It refuses to control the flood of people across our borders. Hate government." 


"And now finally that you hate government, trust the marketplace. You’re on your own. The marketplace, the rich, the job creators, they’ll take care of you, they’re the real engines of social progress. Starve government, cut its taxes, cut government regulations to free the marketplace. Trust that the marketplace will take care of you. And if you don’t succeed blame yourself, and even more, blame those people of color, because they came in and took things that should have gone to you. And by the way, don’t just blame people of color, hate government because they’ve betrayed you, and trust the marketplace."

And immediately you see we’re pushed by the right into this vicious circle, in which the scapegoating of people of color is connected to hatred of government, is connected to rule by the rich that produces economic misery for most of us, that is then channeled into scapegoating of people of color, and then hatred of government, and then support for rule by the rich, and on and on. That is precisely the cycle that gets us from Richard Nixon in 1968 to Donald Trump in 2016. And it’s a downward cycle. Things get worse and worse. Things get worse and worse in terms of racial vitriol, racial attack, and racial conflict. Things get worse and worse in terms of an incompetent government or at least a government that’s incompetent to help us, but that is really captured by the rich and by the corporations. Worse and worse in terms of economic suffering for most of us and levels of wealth inequality we haven’t seen in a century for the very rich. That’s the downward spiral that we’re trapped in right now. 


DD: Right. And I appreciate you bringing Obama into this as well because I often hear about this legacy manifesting in the administrations of Reagan, and Bush Sr., and even Clinton, but I don’t too often hear from folks any analysis of how Obama played a part as well. 


IHL: Yeah, the tragedy with Obama is that Obama accepted the consensus among many Democrats that they cannot effectively respond to race as a wedge issue. 


DD: Right. 


IHL: The Democrats have known since 1970 that race was being weaponized against them. And they turned around and said, "We can’t really defeat this. We can’t really push back against it because if we call it out…


DD: We’ll lose.


IHL: "We’ll lose. We’ll alienate white voters. We’ll agitate people. We actually strengthen the right’s message that the two parties are divided by race. Let’s try really hard to ignore it.” Now, when that didn’t work, Bill Clinton said, “Well, we’ll actually imitate it.” The Democrats said, “We’ll imitate the right’s racial fear mongering.” And that made things much worse not only for people of color but for working families, including white working families, because with Clinton you get a move to say, “The only way Democrats can compete with Republicans is by using the same sorts of racial fear messages.” So Clinton says, “We’re going to end welfare as a way of life.” And he says, “We’re going to crack down on crime.” And again that’s the vision that says, fear and resent people of color. 


But, as Clinton backed away from people of color, he also had to back away from the union movement, the labor movement. If you’re backing away from civil rights, you’re also backing away from labor. And once you back away from both of those, you need to look for another source of support, and that’s Wall Street. So since the 90s, a lot of the Democratic Party has essentially been competing with the Republican Party on two fronts: Both to show which party will do more to protect whites from dangerous and undeserving people of color, and also to show which party will do more to protect and to profit Wall Street. 


Now Obama comes in and he’s not fully in that mode. He comes in in a period of national crises, overlapping national crises. And Obama says, “Well I want to be the sort of Democrat who actually helps people.” And you really see the Affordable Care Act rooted in that model. That is very much to Obama’s credit. But at the same time, he remains largely committed to the idea that the success of the country and the success of the Democratic Party depends upon the continued support of Wall Street. And in addition, he accepts the earlier Democratic consensus that Democrats cannot name and repudiate racism as a wedge issue. 


So rather than challenge it outright, the Obama administration itself continues to acquiesce to–to participate in–a racial politics that depicts people of color as dangerous and threatening to the country. And that’s why they continue with mass incarceration, and that’s why they move to build mass deportation. They knew, the Obama folks knew they would be attacked by Republicans for being soft on crime and soft on immigrants. They thought they could head it off by being tough on crime and tough on immigrants.


And that is just the most absurd thing ever because the whole idea of people of color as somehow dangerous is all a massive lie. It’s not rooted in reality. It’s a massive lie. So to act like you can protect yourself from a massive lie by changing what you’re doing in practice is to think that the lie has some basis in reality. But since it has no basis in reality anyway, why would it matter that the Obama administration ramped up deportations to historic proportions? The Right just kept lying about the threat posed by those they called “illegals” or “criminal illegals” in "sanctuary cities" with no regard to what was actually happening on the ground. So all that the Obama administration managed to do was to deport 3 million people, ruin the lives of 3 million families, stress out communities all through the country, and accomplish absolutely zero in terms of protecting Democrats from the charge that they have betrayed whites by leaving the borders open. 


DD: Mhm, right. And I’m also curious about this former frame of racism we spoke about, that maybe in many ways is mainstream in parts of the left. I'm curious if you think many of our social movements are stuck in that frame of seeing racism solely as this system of white advantage over people of color? 


IHL: Yeah–I think the left is almost entirely stuck in a paradigm that presents racism as fundamentally a hierarchy of whites over non-whites. Now, the left fractures in terms of how it interprets the meaning of that paradigm. But just about everybody is drawing on the same paradigm. So some elements of the left, we could call them the class left, will say, “Hey, white over non-white hierarchy, we can’t get a lot of white folks to deal with that because whites are going to feel attacked. Whites are going to feel uncomfortable. Whites are going to feel resentful. The truth is, trying to deal with racism is going to be a really divisive issue. Let’s set it aside. Let’s adopt a racial strategy of not talking about race. Let’s emphasize things that would help all working families without dividing us.” And what are those things? They could be health care, could be economic populism, could be climate change, but underlying all of that is a racial analysis that says, “We can’t really convince white people to stop being racist, and when we try we’re going to alienate a lot of them. So our best strategy is to build commonality on other things and to sweep race under the table, under the carpet.” That’s one part of the left. 


Another part of the left says, and we might call this the racial justice left, “We will not tolerate harm to our communities being swept under the carpet as secondary and not worth addressing. We will not join any coalition that doesn’t take racism seriously. And if in the context of our addressing racism, some whites are alienated, so be it. We will not restrict our ambition. We will not limit our horizon. We will not sacrifice our communities so that some whites can be comfortable and protected from having to confront white racism.” 


That division between a class left that has a racial strategy of ignoring race, and a racial justice left that has a strategy of emphasizing racism even if it costs white support, that’s overly simplistic, of course, but it also captures sort of a central division within the left. And what’s important is, both sides rely on a paradigm in which racism is primarily a white problem aimed at people of color. So it becomes very important to ask, “Well, what happens to our political imagination, to our ability to form coalitions, if we shift our thinking? If we pivot to recognizing that racism is fundamentally a weapon of the rich against all of us?” 

I emphasize the word "fundamentally" because I don’t want to deny that there is white racism against people of color. That’s there. What I want to emphasize is, what’s underneath it? Who’s funding it? Who’s training it? Who’s spreading it? Who benefits from it? How do they profit from that racism? Those are the key questions.


It allows you to say, racial division in America, wow that’s promoted by the Republican Party, that’s promoted by Donald Trump all the time. It’s echoed by Fox News and right wing media and spread and disseminated and propagated by them. And it’s also rooted in a lot of right wing think tanks. And the people funding all of that, those are the wealthiest elements of our society. They’re the largest corporations. And why are they doing this? Partly prejudice. But much more, it’s because they’ve come to understand that the way concentrated wealth rules a democracy is by promoting social division. Fracturing social solidarity. The wealthiest elements of our society, some of them, the reactionary rich in our society, have recognized that their primary route to power is through fracturing social solidarity. Money power dominating people power by making sure that people can’t come together. And the number one way they fracture social solidarity is racial division. It’s not the only way, they push patriarchy, and gender as a wedge issue. They push homophobia as a wedge issue. Religion, both in terms of an elevation of evangelicals and a demonization of Muslims. Hysteria around disability or political correctness. All of the so-called “culture war” issues…


DD: Abortion. 


IHL: Abortion. The point is not the issues themselves. It’s to use those issues to fracture our sense of connection with each other. And once we see that—that allows a major pivot in terms of how progressives relate to each other. Because for the class left lets say, or environmentalists, or people focused on health care or infrastructure, it becomes a moment where they can say, “Everything I want depends on winning control of government. And winning control of government requires a wave election. And that requires a multiracial movement, and the number one thing standing in the way is racism as a weapon to fracture the left. So my number one tactic, for economic populism, for the environment, for health care, for infrastructure, my number one tactic has to be building cross-racial solidarity.” 


And likewise for racial justice folks, it allows us to say, “The root cause of government violence against people of color is dog whistle politicians who campaign by and govern through systematic violence against communities of color. If we actually want to change these practices, not tinker around the margins but end them, we need to defeat those dog whistle politicians. And the only way we can defeat those dog whistle politicians is through a multiracial coalition in which the largest possible number of whites come to understand that racial division hurts them, too.”


What you end up with is a unifying story for the left that says, “Whatever your issue. Their number one strategy is divide and conquer. Our number one response is unite and build.” That is true for economic populism but it’s also true for ending mass incarceration. It’s also true for saving the environment. Everything we want to do depends on people power. People power depends on cross-racial solidarity. And the Right knows this. This is what the reactionary right is counting on. So we need to know it too. 


DD: And speaking of social solidarity, a part of what I’ve seen you write about is that a part of this messaging and this framing should make people feel connected to this long history of multiracial organizing against both racism and corporate domination.


IHL: Right. 


DD: The times people came together across lines of difference in the past. And I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about what you see as key parts of that historical legacy and why it can be so powerful to call on in our organizing today.  


IHL: Well, you know, so I actually have a slightly different take on it. I think that when you’re talking about organizing most people, most people are not like us — the political junkie class. The political junkie class, racial justice folks, social justice folks, we’re super-interested in history. We think a lot about what’s happened and how we got here and what the structures were and you know, what were the junctures that produced this. That’s not how most people think. And so a strong historical analysis is not important for most people. History is really serving more as a sort of rhetorical reassurance that this is possible. 


DD: Sure. 


IHL: So it becomes important to say, “Hey we can do this, we can come together, just like we’ve done in the past.” And people aren’t deeply engaged in whether and how we’ve come together in the past. They just like hearing, “Just like we’ve done in the past,” and they’re like, “Oh okay we can do it.” So history isn’t playing much of a role there.


DD: Got it. 


IHL: On the other hand, history and where we are now and the larger trajectory of race and class in America is super-important when you’re talking to activists, because activists are attuned enough to recognize that the holy grail of progressive activism has always been a multiracial class-based solidarity. It took that form in Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Movement. It took that form in the fusion movement right after the Civil War. It took that form in Bacon’s Rebellion that brought together whites and blacks in a rebellion against slavery. 


And it is not just the holy grail of progressive organizing. In some ways, it’s the founding national ideal that we’ve never quite lived up to. This new society that we’re creating is rooted in the idea that we are all responsible for self-government, responsible for taking care of each other, and that to make that practical, we have to create a sense of unity out of many different people. Out of many, one. E pluribus unum. That’s the radical ideal at the heart of progressive politics and it is the highest revolutionary ideal of the country. 


And because of that, activists want to know, why can we do this in 2020 when we haven’t been able to do that for 200-plus years? Why now? That’s the important question, and I think, when we think about it that way, that pushes us to recognize, we have been making a lot of progress on one level. And things have gotten a lot worse on another.


We’ve been making a lot of progress in the sense that more and more people don’t want to find value in racial hierarchy. They want to be proud of themselves not because they’re white, or because they’re lighter skinned, but because they’re taking care of their families, and they’re taking care of their communities, and they’re building a society in which people can thrive. That's on the positive side. Frankly, I connect that with Obama’s election. That was a watershed moment for the country where people could see we could get past racism. And Barack Obama, as a person and his family in the White House, that repudiates every negative stereotype ever told about African Americans and really reveals that we can love and learn from each other. So that’s really positive. 


On the negative side, over the last 50 years, we’ve also come to see clearly that when people cling to racism as their primary organizing identity, they end up handing power to the greedy rich. The economic devastation of this country over the last 50 years, that is the true wages of whiteness. That is the true return, when people invest in being white. Maybe they think they’re getting something out of that status. But the reality is, what they’re really getting is politicians like Donald Trump who are busy manipulating their racial anxiety while showering their billionaire buddies with the wealth of the society.


It’s that combination that makes 2020 different from 1968 and surely different from 1868, a moment when for the first time in the history of this country it might be realistic to convince the majority of whites that they have more to gain by rejecting racism, by rejecting racial division, by rejecting organizing their identity principally around being white. More to gain from saying, “I want to make common cause. I want to see and act like my fate is linked with these other people of different colors, from different countries, because that’s the way I can best take care of my family. That’s the way I can best honor my values.” 


That might be possible now because the value of being white at a psychic or a cultural level has gone down. And at the same time, the material advantages of being white have turned decisively negative. What does whiteness earn you materially? It earns you a corrupt government organized to help the billionaires that is busy trying to take health care away from your family, that’s busy trying to bust your unions, that’s busy trying to strip money out of infrastructure, that is corrupt and incompetent. That’s what it gets you when you organize your political identity around being white. So stop. Organize your political identity around being part of a new multiracial progressive movement that believes in and takes care of all of us, all of our families, whether we’re white or we’re black or we’re brown. Whether we’ve been in this country for generations or just arrived. That’s the pragmatic way to take care of one’s family and it’s also the moral way to take care of one’s family.


DD: Yeah, thanks so much, that was beautifully said. I also really appreciate that distinction because what I read was from the Race-Class Narrative Project report about speaking to the general public and saying, “This has happened in the past.” But then again, I can also really feel the power of speaking that deeper history to a group of activists. 


I just have one more question for you right now that relates to moving this work into social movement and political organizations. I’ve seen at least aspects of this analysis mentioned by Sunrise Movement, some by SURJ, People’s Action, and a few months ago, whether the campaign manifested it perfectly or not, it was even mentioned in the Bernie Sanders campaign's podcast.


Could you talk about your process of disseminating all of this, where it’s being used, how that’s gone and where you see that going? 


IHL: Yeah, so the Race-Class Narrative Project, that was done a couple years ago through a pretty broad collaboration, that was very important on sort of a proof-of-concept level. What the Race-Class Narrative Project showed was that a message that said, “We’re being intentionally divided, lets purposefully come together across race lines and take care of all of us,” that message not only could succeed. That message turned out to be the single most powerful political message available today. Not just compared to the right, but compared to the left as well. So it was a hugely important research project at a proof-of-concept level. 


I think the next step is to say, why does it work? And to really promote this foundational understanding of what has happened to us, and why each of our political movements–again whether it’s racial justice, or immigration justice, or environmental justice, or economic justice–each of our movements needs to prioritize building social solidarity. The reason that’s fundamental is because building solidarity across these lines of division is tremendously difficult work. We will only do it, we will only be uncomfortable, we will only be self-critical, we will only compromise, if we understand that it is strictly necessary to do so. 


That’s where we need to move people, toward understanding that they’re not doing this because it’s convenient, they’re not doing this because it’s ethical, they’re not doing this because it’s ideal, they’re doing this because it’s strictly necessary. They’re doing the hard work of building social solidarity across all sorts of divisions because it’s strictly necessary. 


I want to contrast that with the dominant progressive model. The dominant progressive model is that we’re a coalition of different interest groups, that we’re all trying to do our own thing, and that we’re all generally progressive, but we have our own priorities, we have our own constituencies, and we should come together as a coalition because if we could elect progressives maybe we could each get what we want. In that model, that’s a coalition of convenience. It’s convenient for us to work with these other groups because if we scratch their back, they’ll scratch our back. 


But the moment the coalition becomes challenging, convenience isn’t enough of a reason to do that work. The minute somebody says, “Hey, you need to do some hard work and think about how privilege is working in the environmental movement because otherwise it’s going to be hard to build coalitions with racial justice folks,” environmentalists say, “Why are you dragging me off on your issue? Stop dividing us.” Just to take an example.


DD: Yes, I’ve worked for organizations like that—I’ve had that exact moment happen before. 


IHL: Yep. Right? And the reason is because that's where most of us are. It’s so important to understand, that’s where most of us are. I mean, everybody knows we should have a multiracial coalition. Most people just assume we should have a multiracial coalition because it’s going to be convenient. When they hear, “Hey race-class can get us there,” they’re all like, “Cool, I’ll just say the magic words. This is going to get us there.”


That’s not going to work. That’s not going to be enough. To actually build an enduring multiracial progressive coalition is going to require a tremendous amount of work. The Right has been pouring literally billions of dollars and massive amounts of time and organizing into shattering social solidarity. We’re not going to rebuild it just because we say we should all get along. We’re going to have to pour the equivalent in our resources into building social solidarity, and it’s going to be hard, and we need to know why we’re doing this. 


So it becomes very important as sort of a next step for People’s Action, for SURJ, for the labor movement, it becomes very important as a next step that people deeply internalize, and I’m going to say that again for emphasis, that people deeply internalize a new way of seeing racism and social division: as weapons of the rich, rather than as simple fractures in our society. I don’t mean to deny the fractures, the fractures are there, but see them as weapons of the rich, rather than as natural fractures that are just there. These are funded, these are promoted, these function to help the greedy rich, the reactionary rich. 


That’s I think the critical move that will allow people to internalize the need for a race-class approach, and that will also allow them to take ownership over it. Because once they understand the analysis, they can see how it applies. They can develop their own stories about what they need to do to build that coalition. Because for this idea to become truly powerful, lots of different folks, lots of different organizations, lots of different communities need to own it themselves, need to take it on themselves. Not view it as a set of magic words. Not view it as a comms strategy. But actually view it as a strategy for movement building, a strategy for organizing our society — for re-organizing our society. The way we build the society our highest ideals articulate.


DD: Wow. I love that idea of deep internalization because I work with a lot of white anti-racist activists in supporting that internalization and it does seem like in order to be able to go out and create converts you have to first not be motivated, for your own engagement, by guilt or even altruism or charity, but it has to be this deeply internalized understanding that your own well-being depends on this. Or else you can’t get converts. 


IHL: Right. Right. Because they don’t believe you. I was on the phone with somebody yesterday who is an organizer from the UK. He was talking about promoting what he was calling “a solidarity morality.” I said, you know the reality for most people’s lives right now, through the combination of COVID 19 and economic calamity, many people are on the brink of disaster. They are not open to a message about what’s the moral thing to do in the face of disaster. They are saying to themselves, “How do I get health care for my family? How do I provide food? How do I hold on to what shelter I have? How do I take care of the people I love?” We have to answer on that level.


The morality of it is important. It’s an additional impetus. People will not just be energized to act, but they’ll be proud to act; they’ll be excited to act in solidarity because of the moral dimensions. But the fundamental motivation has to be the pragmatic one. You're doing this; you're building social solidarity; you're working hard to set aside divisions, stereotypes, and the bullshit you've internalized; you're going to do that hard work–to get health care for your kids, to make sure you have food and shelter, and to build a community that actually thrives and that you would want your children and their children to inherit. And, it’s the right thing to do. It speaks to our highest ideals. 


But the core emphasis has to be—you know, from "solidarity morality," I said, why don’t we call it "solidarity survival?"


DD: For real. 


IHL: You know, because this is what it is. 


DD: Yeah, it’s just the fact of the matter. 


IHL: Right. Right.  


DD: Well, thank you so much, Ian. This was awesome.


IHL: Thank you, David. I appreciate all the work you’re doing getting out there and doing these trainings. That’s awesome. That’s wonderful. 


DD: I appreciate it. And your articulation of a lot of this in terms of breaking down a 50-year system that has a lot of complexity to it for most people. It’s incredibly helpful. So, I appreciate that very much.


IHL: Thank you, David. You take good care and hopefully we’ll be in further conversation. 

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