pulido - Race Class and Political Activism Black Chicana/o...

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© 2002 Editorial Board of Antipode . Published by Blackwell Publishing, 108 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1JF, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA Race, Class, and Political Activism: Black, Chicana/o, and Japanese- American Leftists in Southern California, 1968–1978 Laura Pulido Department of Geography and Program in American Studies & Ethnicity, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA; [email protected] This paper explores the third-world left in Los Angeles, from 1968–1978. In it I examine the political ideology and foci of one organization for each of the major racial/ethnic groups of the time: African Americans (Black Panther Party), Chicanas/os (El Centro de Accion Social y Auton- omo [CASA]), and Japanese Americans (East Wind). In addition to reclaiming this relatively unknown history, I seek to explain the differences in the various organizations by analyzing them within the context of differential racialization. I argue that the distinct nature of each organization is at least partly due to the particular racial position of each racial/ethnic group within the local racial order. Introduction Among left activists, the challenge of balancing race and class in organizing efforts is a long-standing issue. While most progressive organ- izations seek to promote both antiracist and anticapitalist politics, the histories of these two movements in the US have often been estranged and contradictory. This is due to structural factors, including the ruling class’s practice of using racial/ethnic differences to divide workers (Saxton 1971), as well as the fact that at times white workers have embraced racist ideas in order to distinguish themselves from workers of color (Ignatiev 1995). Indeed, if we consider the degree to which racial ideology and discourse permeate our social and economic structures, then the barriers to building a multiracial left should come as no surprise. Nonetheless, the need to address both racism and class oppression is essential to contemporary organizing efforts, especially given the growing complexity of our racial and class structures. New political strategies are needed in order to foster a truly democratic and inclusive movement that poses a real alternative to global corporatism. Organizing around race and class is hardly new—but how to build explicitly antiracist organizations rooted in either class or anticapital- ist politics is quite challenging, as it requires, first, that activists articu- late how racism and class relations intersect to create a particular
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Race, Class, and Political Activism 763 social formation, and second, that this theory be implemented on the ground. Examining how past activists have addressed these issues could offer numerous insights. This paper examines one chapter of left history in order to illuminate how leftists of color articulated and acted upon the relationship between race and class. Specifically, I explore black, Chicano/a, and Japanese-American leftists in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s. By presenting three different organizations—
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