People of color have long recognized the need to build alliances. In this piece we’ll talk about the purpose of coalition building, and its best practices. Let us know your questions below!
What is a coalition?
In short, a coalition is a group of individuals or organizations with a common interest who agree to work together toward a common goal.
In this context, coalitions are a group of organizations that represent communities of color, that cross-cut their work to achieve rights for their respective communities.
Why build coalitions?
Diversity is a strength and national asset. In a time that the fear of “the other” is being used to advance harmful policies, we need to gain power through numbers — through the collective.
What is the history of coalitions?
AAPI, Black, and Latinx communities have long partnered together for a common purpose. For example, APAICS and it’s Hispanic and Black Caucus counterparts, CHCI and CBCF, have long worked together to increase representation of People of Color on the Hill and in local and state offices. Every year, we host a tri-caucus reception for our summer interns, and this year, we organized the very first professional development event with CHCI for our fellows.
In government, several federal, state and local level AAPI elected officials have been elected to represent districts that are majority non-AAPI — Michigan’s Stephanie Chang, for instance, represents a majority-Black district. This highlights the importance of leadership that demands us to listen to communities not our own, and elevate the needs of other POC.
Coalitions have historical context too. They have helped to unite communities with similar experiences or hardships. Many parallels are drawn between the Korematsu case against incarceration camps and the current Native American rights struggle — for example, the fact that some of these camps were situated on Native American reservations, and that similar policies were applied to enforce control over both communities.
In a similar vein, the Japanese American community was the first to step forward after the start of surveillance on Muslim communities and the Muslim Ban, in defense of the Muslim community’s civil rights, having been “otherized” and mistrusted under Executive Order 9066 themselves.
Ian Record, Director of Partnership for Tribal Governance at the National Congress of American Indians, said at the 2018 APAICS Policy Summit, “policies designed to oppress one community of color are designed to oppress all communities of color.”
What are the best practices to build coalitions?
According to the professionals on the Coalitions Policy Summit panel, the best methods to create an impactful coalition to advance the goals of communities of color are:
- Acknowledging that all groups will not agree on everything
- Finding common ground over issues– for example, immigration has been painted as a Latinx issue, while in reality, it has severely affected AAPI communities and others. Organizations like Undocublack and NAKASEC have been working to unify the diverse voice for immigration reform through this understanding.
- Understanding that dividing groups and the fear of the “other” has been used as a dividing tactic — the Model Minority Myth, for example, has been used to build a wedge between the AAPI community against the Black community.
- “If you want a friend, be a friend”
- Passing the mic. Diversifying panels and speaking opportunities.
- Building relationships.
- Understanding that there is no winner in the “Oppression Olympics” — our role is only to uplift others’ experiences and cross cut our goals.
- Remember that there are so many parts to identify and they’re all intersectional, were all multidimensional people and communities
If done in an organized and thoughtful manner, building coalition can call national and international attention on important issues and push for positive social change.
To watch the full recording of the 2018 Policy Summit panel on Coalition Building, click here.