U.S. Activism

Comparing activism in the United States versus activism in Europe is interesting because the cultural and historical differences become much more apparent. I admit that I may be missing some nuance from both sides of the conversation, it seems that activism in the United States is defined by demographic difference, while activism in Europe is defined by socio-economic class solidarity. By demographic difference, I am mainly referring to racial and gender & sexuality differences. The United States has a deeply racist history, from slavery to Jim Crow and the current police brutality epidemic. Moreover, the powers that be in the United States have spent decades pretending that the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s ended racism in the country.

This dynamic creates a very interesting environment for the types of protests, rallies and riots that are seen in the United States. An important point is that with racial equality and LGBTQ+ activism, the participants are protesting against fellow citizens as much as they are protesting the government and corporations. The fight against Separate but Equal is an example of this, where the Brown v. Board of Education ruling that racial segregation did not ensure equality for black students and students of color. This led to pushback from white community, and was therefore a factor in the civil rights movement of the 60s. Moreover, the Stonewall Inn riots from around the same time showcase the importance of identity politics within American activist movements as the LGTBQ+ rioters protested against the unfair treatment of queer people in New York. This highlights another factor in American activism, which is the relatively violent force used by American police against protestors.  The United States is very proud of its military force, which trickles down to the local city police forces as demonstrated by the gear worn by police during Black Lives Matter protests.

5 Comments

  1. Julia Carnine

    June 23, 2020 at 5:03 am

    Christian, you can relax, you are not supposed to be able to have all the nuances here, but it is smart to know the limits of your understanding for now! Hopefully this week’s module will offer some more understanding and examples. Your point is well taken that historical foundations of a society do much to form social systems and thusly activism. The way industrialisation developed post-War Europe was a strong basis for conceptualizing and rising up in social conflict around social class, is very different from the ‘New World’ immigration and therefore ethnically based order that came into play in the US. I would encourage you to notice however, that both the class-based analysis and race-based can be used in when approaching questions of discrimination of social systems in each continent.

  2. I like your comparison between the demographic difference in the US and class-based solidarity in Europe. Since many European nations are much more homogeneous with a white majority population, I wonder to what extent race and class overlap in European nations.

  3. I like the point that because we made progress during the Civil Rights Movement we tend to pretend that everything is alright and there is no need to make any more change. I think this is very true and I have observed this reaction in other Civil Rights Movements such as the disability rights movement.
    As a society we tend to take the easy way out, make small changes and then was our hands of the problems without addressing the underlying issues. Eventually, this catches up with us as illustrated by the current BLM movement.

  4. I think highlighting the differences in police response to protests in the US vs. Europe is critical. In my own research, it was telling to see the stark differences in America’s militarized and often violent responses to protests in comparison to typically more peaceful responses in Europe.

    The line “participants are protesting against fellow citizens as much as they are protesting the government and corporations” was really powerful and made me reflect on the intense partisanship in the US and how it has shaped the ways issues of human rights are addressed.

  5. I find it interesting how you point out the difference being about demographics in the U.S. and socioeconomic classes in Europe. Regardless of the fact that white people compose the majority receiving welfare, they are still the largest demographic supporting Trump. It also makes me think about how Trump has purposefully utilized these identity/demographic politics in order to further divide America.

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