The 2014 killing of Akai Gurley, a Black New Yorker, at the hands of Chinese American rookie cop Peter Liang sparked months of protest and an increased interest in the fault lines between Asian American and Black communities in the United States. Drawing on ethnographic data, mainstream media, and recent activist projects like Letters for Black Lives, this essay critiques the notion of “empathy” as a foundation for meaningful multiracial alliance. Solidarity based on notions of shared suffering can create a false equivalence between different experiences of racialized violence. Instead, we explore the potential of thick solidarity that pushes into the specificity, irreducibility, and incommensurability of racialized experiences. Though the issue of Black-Asian solidarity at the center of this analysis is situated in US racial politics, by introducing the concept of thick solidarity, this essay offers an affective approach toward thinking about the challenges and potentials of cultivating Global South solidarities more broadly.
Research Article|May 01 2018
Toward Thick Solidarity: Theorizing Empathy in Social Justice Movements
Radical History Review (2018) 2018 (131): 189-198.