Solidarity September: The Nuances and Necessities of Black and Brown Unity

Hey, Indy Equity fam, Nikki here! Fall’s right around the corner! It’s my absolute favorite season, full of hot beverages, Hispanic Heritage, and fun festivals. So, it is only appropriate to take another deep dive into the end-of-summer pool of societal dilemmas and cultural intersections. September’s posts are all going to be about solidarity, and I’ve got a hot cup of “SolidariTEA” brewing for y’all. Sorry, I’ve been spending lots of time at Tea’s Me. If you were here last month, you know we like to keep things interesting. If you’re new, welcome to the party! Buckle up; we’ve got some ground to cover. ???? Today, we’re diving headfirst in to the intricacies of Black and Brown unity, both in the Circle City and on a broader scale. So, let’s chat, let’s question, and hey, let’s even throw a bit of shade if we have to—because what’s a dialogue without some spice?

The BIPOC Controversy: A Case of Identity or Unity?

At a recent virtual workshop, a spirited attendee named Patricia introduced herself with a clarifying proclamation: “I’m not a BIPOC. I’m not a person of color. I’m BLACK!” Y’all, that resonated with me, but it also made me a tad melancholy. First, let’s unpack why Patricia (and so many others) reject this unifying acronym. I think it’s because the term “BIPOC” (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) can sometimes dilute the unique struggles of being Black in America. It might, for some, feel like another way to make Black identity fit into a catchall category.

But wait, there’s more! Let’s not forget, the term “BIPOC” was meant to foster solidarity, an all-for-one, one-for-all vibe that aims to bring marginalized groups together in their shared pursuit for equality. The terminology hopes to elevate the common struggles of oppression, while acknowledging the distinct hardships of Black and Indigenous communities. Isn’t there something magical about that? ???? In the struggle against systemic inequalities, there’s a strength in numbers that BIPOC offers, particularly when it comes to political activism and societal change. Why don’t we explore that, Naptown?

Black and Brown Solidarity in Indianapolis and Beyond

Now that we’ve uncorked the BIPOC bottle, let’s tackle the broader topic of Black and Brown unity. Trust me, it’s a conversation as rich and complex as a cup of café con leche. But let’s give it a go . . .

Hoosier Hoods: Full of Untapped Potential for Cross-Community Solidarity

Now, let’s bring this discussion to the streets of Naptown. Remember the murder of George Floyd? That incident shook the nation, the world. Yet, right here in our backyard, the response was far from united. I noticed that some Hispanic-serving organizations and leaders didn’t make any public shows of support. What’s the deal?

This isn’t just a one-way street, either. I’ve had conversations with Black leadership, and the hesitancy to partner with other racial and ethnic groups is as palpable as the Indiana humidity in August. Why? Well, it’s partly because of the same concerns surrounding terms like “BIPOC.” People feel their unique struggle gets buried under the weight of a collective. But it’s also about a lack of examining the Anti-Latino and anti-immigrant narrative we may have been socialized with. I have heard people say things like, “immigrants take our jobs” or “there’s only so much funding. It’s us or them.” That’s a lie. Hard stop. The data tells us the exact opposite. We have to start getting curious about why we think what we think.

The National Scene

Listen up, Indy. We are MISSING a massive opportunity here. Let’s zoom out. Nationally, the Black Lives Matter movement has seen huge Latinx support. Likewise, the cries against anti-immigration policies have found allies in many Black activists. But don’t get overly excited—this national picture doesn’t erase the underlying issues. Anti-Blackness, colorism, linguicism, and other isms within Latinx and Black communities are real and divisive issues. We can’t pretend otherwise.

From Naptown to Nation: How Do We Strengthen Unity?

Alright, we’ve identified the conundrum. So what’s next? I don’t have all the answers, but as someone doing a PhD in cross-racial connection (a few more months!), I’ve got a few suggestions:

Shared Spaces

Creating more shared cultural spaces could facilitate natural interactions. We’ve got the Global Village and Black and Brown Get Down in Indy, and that’s dope. But what if hubs and festivals were more intentional about encouraging critical cross-cultural dialogue?

Awareness

Like, let’s be real: How much do we actually know about each other’s histories and struggles? I propose more educational workshops that tackle the specific issues affecting both Black and Brown communities. Let’s all find Sampson Levingston and my tocaya Nicole Martinez-Legrand to teach us a few things about our histories. Or hire IEC to facilitate some cognitive empathy or relationality workshops (available in español también).

Leadership Dialogue

As a civic leader and entrepreneur, I feel it’s crucial for Black and Brown leaders in Indy and across the nation to come together regularly. Whether it’s roundtables or Zoom check-ins, these dialogues could be the starting point for collaborative activism. There are ground rules for these things, like addressing power differentials, dismantling harmful narratives, etc. (For the full list, see my upcoming dissertation.)

Individual Conversations

This may seem minuscule, but never underestimate the power of one-on-one dialogue. Y’all remember my story about connecting through language? Let’s make the personal political and start at home. Speak to your kids, your neighbors, and your community. Get to know each other beyond the superficial. Keep it funky.

Skeptical? I get it, Indy has its own Midwestern politeness, a cultural “keep to yourself” vibe. But y’all, this is not a moment for that famed Hoosier hospitality to turn into Hoosier hesitancy. We can’t let politeness become an obstacle to justice.

As someone who has navigated Black and Latino spaces in this city, and as someone who actively addresses the messiness and complexity of these relations in academic circles, I can tell you: unity IS possible. And this is not just talk; we have the tools and resources to make it happen. All we need is to tackle our biases, reach across our neighborhoods, and create an inclusive dialogue that is stronger than the sum of its parts.

The Final Pour

At the end of the day, Black and Brown solidarity isn’t a switch we can flip. It’s a practice, a conversation, and sometimes even a heated debate. But hey, as Gloria Anzaldua pointed out, sometimes we find the most profound connections in the figurative borderlands of our identities. And if this biracial, overachieving, language-loving, Indianapolis-native mom of five can find it, so can we all.

So let’s toast to a more united future in Solidarity September and beyond. The struggle might be long and winding, but as we say in both the Black and Brown communities, mi lucha es tu lucha. No one is free till we all are free.

Until next time, Indy. Keep it just, keep it equitable, keep fighting the good fight. ✌????

—Nikki