If We Were Kin: Race, Identification, and Intimate Political Appeals

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In June 1973, amid ideological rifts in the U.S. gay liberation movement, thousands of people gathered in New York City's Washington Square Park to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion. Partway through the rally, Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) co-founder Sylvia Rivera fought her way to the stage to address the predominantly white, middle class lesbian and gay crowd. Over the din of their boos and jeers, Rivera reprimanded the crowd for failing in their responsibilities to their "gay brothers and sisters" in jail, detailed the sacrifices she had made for the movement, and called them into the politics of STAR, "The people who are trying to do something for all of us and not men and women that belong to a white middle class white club! And that is what you all belong to!" Rivera's appeal thus worked through a push-pull of distance and belonging, shaming the movement for its assimilatory turn while invoking forms of kinship and calling her listeners into an expansive multi-issue liberation politics.

How does a sense of intimacy call people into political community? If We Were Kin is about the we of politics--how that we is made, fought over, and remade--and how these struggles lie at the very core of questions about power and political change. Across a range of sites in racial justice and queer/trans liberation movements--from speeches by James Baldwin and Sylvia Rivera in the 1960s and 1970s to contemporary immigrant justice campaigns by the antiracist LGBTQ organization Southerners on New Ground (SONG)--Lisa Beard traces a distinct lineage of appeals that challenge atomized and hierarchical racial formations in the United States and advance powerful visions of political relationships rooted in mutuality and shared freedom. In plumbing the deeper registers of identificatory appeals, Beard transforms understandings of identity, solidarity, political confrontation, and apparent loss/failure as points of possibility. If We Were Kin offers an innovative account of racial politics and political theory rooted in Black, Latinx, queer, and trans activism in twentieth and twenty-first century America.

ISBN 9780197517321
List price $27.00
Publisher Oxford University Press, USA
Year of publication 2023
Medium_9780197517321