“Coalition is Not a Home”: From Idealized Coalitions to Livable Lives

Extended essay by
Pritha Prasad

In a July 2020 Instagram Live video, Black comedian and writer Ziwe Fumudoh[1] interviews Alyssa Milano for her weekly show that features white celebrities who have been “canceled” for racist acts.[2] Milano has been canceled more than once before for wearing blackface[3] and having been falsely credited as the founder of the #MeToo Movement, among other missteps.[4] In responding to Fumudoh’s first question about how many Black friends she has, Milano states that she doesn’t have “a lot of white friends.” She declares that, since her experience of spending time in South Africa in the wake of the apartheid, she has “tried to make friends with more people of color.” Fumudoh goes on to ask more of her signature questions: What do you like “qualitatively” about the Black community? Can you name five Black women off the top of your head? At one point in the interview, Milano discusses how, after she was falsely credited for “starting” the #MeToo movement 2017 and subsequently learned that the movement had actually already been founded by Black activist Tarana Burke in 2006, she “promised Tarana . . . any opportunity I have to speak about this movement, I will include you.” 

Milano’s responses to Fumudoh’s questions stunningly reveal some of the dominant appeals through which (white) progressives in the Trump era often work to establish themselves as being “with the cause,” especially in distancing themselves from the low-hanging fruit of the “bad” white supremacists who have become increasingly visible after Trump’s election. Milano’s boastful quantification of her many non-white friends is deployed to suggest not just that she is an “ally,” but also, most importantly, that she has always been engaged in collective, shared antiracist struggle. Furthermore, in “including” Burke—rather than centering her—as the leader and founder of #MeToo, Milano suggests that she and Burke are fighting the same fight, in the same movement. This assumption overlooks Burke’s initial creation of “Me Too” to draw attention specifically to sexual violence against women of color who have long been invisibilized within the criminal justice system (Adetiba, 2017), and not the white women in Hollywood who popularized the hashtag after Milano first tweeted it in 2017 (Dadas, 2020).  

In the wake of a global pandemic that disproportionately affects Black and Latinx communities (COVID-19, 2020), a presidential election, and a nationwide, and even global, reckoning with anti-Black racism, the kinds of rhetorical appeals forwarded by Milano have been increasingly widespread. I think, for example, of progressive white women who have posted continually on social media about the significance of Kamala Harris’s election as “the first woman” Vice President, strategically erasing Harris’ Blackness to reductively narrate Harris’s victory as one that is universal and shared among “all” women. I think also of how progressive cultural, political, and educational institutions have circulated politically-expedient rhetorics decrying anti-Black racism. Universities and corporate brands have released statements affirming their commitment to antiracism. Video streaming platforms removed episodes of television shows like The Office and 30 Rock that depict blackface (Carras, 2020), and reality TV shows like Bravo’s Vanderpump Rules have fired cast members whose past and current racist actions have been exposed (Aurthur & Wagmeister, 2020). Notably, these actions are usually framed in terms of “solidarity.” As Amazon tweeted on May 31, 2020, for example, “Together we stand in solidarity with the Black community . . . in the fight against systemic racism and injustice” (Amazon, 2020). But what does “solidarity” mean? Who sets the term for what “solidarity” looks like, especially following an election season in which the recognition of anti-Black racism has operated as, increasingly, as an abstract rhetorical gesture rather than a material and systemic intervention?

In this essay, I interrogate recent public attempts at coalition in the wake of the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Black liberation protests, the 2020 presidential election, and ongoing racialized violences in cultural, political, and educational spaces. I identify in particular an emergent rhetorical trend towards idealized coalitions. Idealized coalitions are characterized by uneven, non-reciprocal, and usually idealized/imaginary collective relationships between groups with differential positions of power and vulnerability, and crop up exclusively in response to acute anti-Black racialized violence. I focus my analysis on the June 2020 #BlackoutTuesday protests on social media, that, in attempting to operate coalitionally with Black Lives Matter, ultimately inhibited organizers’ efforts. I ask: What kinds of conditions exist—rhetorically, materially, and/or institutionally—within (white) progressive publics that underpin these idealized coalitions, and how are idealized coalitions distinct from individual failures in allyship or performative solidarity (Cohen, 2014)? What would it look like to shift from idealized coalitions towards coalitional structures and modes of collectivity that are reciprocal, materially-grounded, and do not depend primarily upon racialized violence for exigence?

(Idealized) Coalitional politics: “Coalition is not a home”

Coalition, as Karma Chávez (2013) writes in her groundbreaking work, is “a present and existing vision and practice that reflects an orientation to others and a shared commitment to change” (p. 146). Coalition is something more than merely strategic alliances towards a shared political goal; it also offers “differently positioned groups” to “imagine the conditions of their politics” differently (p. 81). Chávez, in this way, does not think of coalitions as fixed entities—she prefers instead the concepts of coalitional possibilities or moments, which capture the idea of coalition as an enduring practice with material implications rather than a series of neat intersections and initiatives. Coalitional possibility thus involves “a relational notion of the subject,” and a commitment to “see issues, systems of oppression, and possibilities for a livable life as inextricably bound to one another” (Chávez, 2013, p. 147).

It is worth paying particular attention to the idea of “livable life” as being key to the practice of coalition. While coalitions often emerge in response to threats of violence—as is the case in the examples Chávez highlights in her study of queer migration politics—they are also life-affirming practices that, like one’s everyday existence, would necessarily require a sustained understanding of “the messiness, the impurity, and the multiplicity of subjectivity, agency, and politics” (p. 147). In the words of Black feminist activist Bernice Johnson Reagon (1983), coalition is “some of the most dangerous work you can do.” Some people “will come to a coalition and they rate the success of the coalition on whether or not they feel good when they get there” (p. 359). This emphasis on “feeling good” undermines the inherent risks of any coalitional formation that involves differently-positioned groups: the only reason “you would consider trying to team up with somebody who could possibly kill you, is because that’s the only way you can figure you can stay alive” (Reagon, 1983, p. 356). 

As both Chávez and Reagon underscore, coalition should be understood not just as an activist response to an issue or context, but a life-affirming practice that carries with it material risks if mobilized without sustained attention the limits of shared experiences and political goals. Understanding these limits demands moving beyond a paradigm that suggests “identification requires sameness,” as women of color feminist María Lugones (2003) notes. Instead, “coalition requires that we conceive identification anew” (p. 85). Coalition, in this way, is centrally characterized by continual and committed practice, not just kairotic points of intersection or convergence that dissipate after immediate threats of violence no longer appear immediate anymore. It critically avoids a politics of closure and comfort by imagining new/different modes of identification in pursuit of shared practice. 

Idealized coalitions, on the other hand, prioritize unidirectional and dematerialized engagements of antiracist politics in ways that imagine collectivity even in places where it may not actually exist. In this way, my understanding of idealized coalitions builds from Black feminist Cathy Cohen’s (2014) work on “performative solidarity,” but with an important extension. For Cohen, performative solidarity refers to the “contradictory project” whereby, for example, mainstream LGBT organizations after Ferguson performed solidarity with Black, youth-led movements like #BlackLivesMatter while actively remaining complicit with “a dominant neo-liberal structure whose racial politics will always threaten the lives of people of color, and in particular, poor Black people” (Cohen, 2014, p. 2). While idealized coalition, like performative solidarity, is almost always unidirectional, I understand idealized coalitions as being unique to the particular temporal register of 2020 discourses around anti-Black racism, especially as there has been a growing awareness in the progressive (white) mainstream around the systemic nature of racism since Ferguson, largely as a result of the increased publicity around antiracist movements and activism (Maraj, 2020). Idealized coalitions are characterized not only by a performative engagement with radical antiracist movements, but also an idealized (and usually false) assumption of collective or shared politics that is often neither reciprocal nor consensual.  

#BlackOutTuesday and #TheShowMustBePaused

In early June 2020, just days after the murder of Floyd, brands like Spotify, Live Nation, Apple, and TikTok decided to cease operations in light of protests in Minneapolis, engaging in an industry blackout initiative under the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused (Coscarelli, 2020). It is important to note that #TheShowMustBePaused is a hashtag initially created by two Black women working in music marketing—Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang—in protest of the music industry’s profiting off of Black art and cultural production. In spite of the protest’s initial intervention, however, the hashtag was quickly appropriated by public figures and influencers under the label “#BlackoutTuesday” (Coscarelli, 2020). This led to a widespread social media trend, particularly on Instagram, in which participants vowed to cease posting for the rest of the day after sharing blank black squares in their posts. Hundreds of thousands of participants, in sharing black squares, included the hashtag “#BlackLivesMatter” in addition to “#BlackoutTuesday.” However, the inclusion of “#BlackLivesMatter” very quickly became problematic for how it flooded the “#BlackLivesMatter” hashtag feed with an exponentially-increasing number of black squares, which made it nearly impossible for organizers on the ground to share pertinent information and resources in support of, and in relation to, protests/protesters on the ground (Lerman, 2020). What was lost in the #BlackoutTuesday protests was a recognition of the fact that the hashtag “#BlackLivesMatter,” while often mobilized on social media and beyond to declare one’s orientation to racial politics, also serves the very practical and essential purpose of cultivating resources across geographic space. This performative gesture of posting black squares using the “#BlackLivesMatter” hashtag, in spite of its “well-intentioned” deployment to express collective solidarity, thus demobilized and erased protest efforts on the ground, rather than upholding or extending them. 

While hashtag protests as coalitional gestures can indeed constitute and sustain radical politics (Prasad, 2016), there is a distinction between coalitional gestures in the service of radical, antiracist world-making[5] and the kinds of performative gestures that constitute idealized coalitions. Mia McKenzie, founder of the radical Black feminist blog Black Girl Dangerous, refers to performative gestures online that are proliferated in low-stakes, low-risk contexts as “ally theater” (McKenzie, 2015). As Sarah L. Jackson, Moya Bailey, and Brooke Foucault Welles (2020) argue, these performances, in addition to lacking nuanced calls for action and systemic political analysis, also have other harmful impacts such as hijacking viral hashtags that stem from the labor of a marginalized group, as is true with #BlackoutTuesday and #TheShowMustBePaused, and centering neoliberal models of behavioral change in lieu of action-oriented, reciprocal practice (p. 181). The quick, mainstream appropriation of #BlackoutTuesday via the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag proliferates violent erasures on several levels, particularly in undermining—as Milano and Burke’s example also demonstrates—the resistance labor of Black women: Thomas and Agyemang’s critique and intervention as Black women in the music industry are decontextualized and overpowered, and the name of the Black Lives Matter movement—founded by Black queer women Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Khan-Cullors to recenter the work of Black queer women in Black liberation (Garza, 2014)—paradoxically drowns out vital information intended for organizers on the ground. While the sharing of hashtags might literally link posts together in a feed, providing an appearance of radically-oriented collectivity, #BlackoutTuesday’s uptake constitutes an idealized coalitional gesture in which participants individually imagine themselves to be operating in conjunction with Black Lives Matter to such an extent that Black Lives Matter content and resources are rendered inaccessible.  

It is tempting to read the example of #BlackoutTuesday a series of failed attempts at allyship, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Even as allyship and coalition are often deployed as related terms, it is important still to parse their key differences. Black feminist activist Feminista Jones (2019) offers that people often use the term “ally” as “a catchall term and performative act to assure others that they aren’t bad people” (p. 43). Marquis Bey (2019), likewise, states that allyship often operates to “foreground one’s hegemonic identification” (p. 69). While there is a way to read #BlackoutTuesday as participants’ attempts to perform their individual identities as so-called allies, there is an element of false collectivity here that is key for understanding the allure of #BlackoutTuesday. This is perpetuated by both the composing form of the hashtag, which demands “repetition, recirculation, and retweeting” (Prasad, 2016, p. 59), and the mere fact that most participants who posted black squares with the “#BlackoutTuesday” and “#BlackLivesMatter” hashtags likely did so with the assumption that they are supporting the—or a—movement. That is, posting a black square becomes a way of comfortably demonstrating belonging within a broad, amorphous orientation—“#BlackLivesMatter”—and, therefore, of imagining oneself falsely to be “with the cause.” This imagined collectivity is distinct from the kinds of coalitional politics and formations Chávez, Reagon, and Lugones highlight. Rather than committing to seeing “issues, systems of oppression, and possibilities for a livable life as inextricably bound to one another” (Chávez, 2013, p. 147), participants instead prioritize uplifting perceptions of collectivity over materially-reciprocal engagements with #BlackLivesMatter efforts on the ground. 

Even though idealized coalitions are usually well-intentioned attempts at engaging and supporting the work of movements like #BlackLivesMatter, their violent impacts exemplify why it is so important to identify the shifting modes whereby (neo)liberal progressive publics can insidiously demobilize antiracist politics and movements, and often through the performance of coalition. While social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter have indeed radically transformed modes of antiracist protest and activism, demonstrations like #BlackoutTuesday embody how rhetorics of antiracism can also be commodified and subsequently deployed by corporations to drive traffic to social media platforms, brands, and products in ways that violently uproot and obscure grassroots movements and organizing on the ground. As I suggest above, it might also be argued that the phrase “#BlackLivesMatter” itself, as it is mobilized by neoliberal progressive institutions, has often been misapplied in ways so deeply abstracted and dematerialized from its genealogy and roots in Black feminist and queer thought that it has come to operate, in many cases, as an individualized and personal orientation rather than a systemic and historically-situated movement. I am immediately reminded, for example, of a particular lawn sign that proliferated across the U.S. in the months leading up to the November 2020 election: 


The first time I saw this sign was when I was visiting my parents in Minneapolis in September 2020, and was driving through an affluent suburban neighborhood in the town of Edina, which was an aggressively anti-Black sundown town well into the mid-20th century.[6] This sign reductively narrates Black Lives Matter as an individualized “belief” while also exhibiting a stunning disavowal of the historicity of the material space in which the sign emerges, and, as Wendy S. Hesford notes, “the potential violence of comparison and false equivalences” (Hesford, in press, p. 3). What’s more, none of the proceeds of the “Kindness is Everything” movement have ever been donated to #BlackLivesMatter or Movement for Black Lives.[7]

Thus, in our current political moment in which major corporations, universities, and cultural institutions explicitly name anti-Black racism, intentionally claim to support #BlackLivesMatter’s efforts, and even make political demands to “defund the police”[8] while, in the same breath, marketing and promoting their products, it becomes increasingly vital to track where generative opportunities for coalition emerge, and where they are stifled. Even in publicly naming anti-Black racism as “state-sponsored” (Ben & Jerry’s, 2020) or calling to defund the police, how might such institutions prematurely imagine shared goals in antiracist struggle, while, as April Baker-Bell et al.’s “This Ain’t Another Statement!” (2020) puts it, “ignoring the anti-Black skeletons in their own closets”? 

Without writing an entirely separate essay, I’d also add, more specifically, that in our own discipline/s of rhetoric, composition, and literacy studies, we might also look more critically—and perhaps suspiciously—at the oft-repeated designations of “the social justice turn” (Walton et al., 2019) or “political turn” (Carter et al., 2020). The rhetoric of these “turns” risks idealistically suggests that our disciplines are centrally and materially committed to decolonial, antiracist work, even as many white scholars continue to ask their BIPOC colleagues behind the scenes to take on extra service labor, especially in heading institutional diversity efforts and committees, all while devaluing their scholarship by exclusively citing other white scholars, even in scholarship about “social justice.” Coalition, Reagon (1983) reminds us, “is not done in your home. Coalition work has to be done in the streets” (p. 359). There is an obvious, literal way to interpret this statement, but we can infer more: Cultivating sustainable coalitional moments cannot happen without a critical engagement with both the material and sometimes unsettling realities of racism across spaces—the conditions for “livable lives”—and the specific initiatives and interventions of grassroots movements on the ground. Again, as “This Ain’t a Statement!” incisively asks: “How has Black Lives Mattered in our research, scholarship, teaching, disciplinary discourses, graduate programs, professional organizations, and publications?” To say “Black Lives Matter,” after all, is not just to say anti-Black racism is unacceptable. It is a way of invoking the movement’s epistemological intervention to center those who have been marginalized within Black liberation movements, and to “[affirm] the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, Black-undocumented folks, folks with records, women and all Black lives along the gender spectrum” (Garza, 2014). How can we make these specific initiatives a shared political goal within our discipline and beyond, while also centering the work of scholars who have been engaging these interventions for a long time?[9] Doing this work can enable us to move beyond the widespread trend in the academy of studying movements, rather than participating in them (Vannan, 2020, p. 130), and imagine differently the coalitional possibilities at the intersections of pedagogy, scholarship, and activism.  

Coda: From idealized coalitions to livable lives

On September 29th, 2020, as I scrolled through Twitter while watching the first presidential debate between Trump and Biden, I came across the following tweet in response to moderator Chris Wallace’s question about whether the candidates “believe” that there is an “unequal system of justice for Blacks in this country” (Rev, 2020): 

Figure 2. Tweet by @R0BB1_3: “American Presidential Debates be like “ Do Black people matter? you have two minutes.”

While this tweet exaggerates for the purpose of satire, it nonetheless presents yet another important question in the wake of 2020 Minneapolis protests, the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the articulations of idealized coalitions that have cropped up alongside these contexts: Why does it take Black death to inspire (neo)liberal publics to affirm the value of Black life

In addition to embodying idealized coalitions, the examples of Fumudoh’s interview of Milano and #BlackoutTuesday, like this tweet, also underscore the limits of a paradigm of coalition that is primarily motivated as a unidirectional reaction to acute racial death or injury, rather than one that is a sustained, ongoing practice of working consensually and reciprocally with resistance movements on the ground towards shared goals. Even though the cultivation of coalitional possibilities does not mean that differently-positioned groups must share all of the same political philosophies, “the relational nature of group histories,” as Chávez (2013) argues, has to be a foundation to the work” (p. 129). That is, coalitions require a shared politics of collectivity that moves in more than one direction, even when they emerge in response to the threat of death or harm. It is not enough, as #BlackoutTuesday illustrates, to circulate the name and hashtag of a radical Black feminist and queer movement on social media without attending to the material and complex uses of networked media to sustaining struggle across geographic space. It is not enough for Milano to retroactively “include” Burke after she has been erased as the founder of her own movement. It is not enough for politicians to merely “believe” that systemic anti-Black racism exists, and only after several instances of hypervisible Black death during an election year. And finally, as the “coalitional” response by some Asian-American advocacy groups of posting yellow squares co-opting #BlackoutTuesday to bring awareness to the 2021 anti-Asian Atlanta murders reveals,[10] it is not enough to repurpose resistance labor meant to highlight anti-Blackness to then subsequently recenter the racial violences faced by non-Black people of color. Such moves, beyond disavowing “relational nature of group histories,” profoundly limit possibilities for the kind of radical cross-racial organizing that is vital for dismantling state-sanctioned white supremacy.

I am not suggesting a “right” way to do coalition—indeed, as Victor Del Hierro, Daisy Levy, and Margaret Price write, the need for correctness, for “balance,” can be deeply tied to imperial desires for expansion and conquest (Del Hierro et al., 2016). To therefore imagine “the messiness, the impurity, and the multiplicity of subjectivity, agency, and politics” (Chávez, 2013, p. 147) that necessarily characterizes coalitional work, I’d like to offer that, rather than imagining a path for moving forward, we might instead consider, as Michelle Alexander reminds us in a recent conversation with Angela Davis and Patrisse Khan-Cullors, how justice is more a process than it is a destination (Davis et al., 2021). To do this requires sustained, reflexive inquiry, even as the political landscape is continually in flux: What does the hashtag “#BlackLivesMatter” do after it is typed, uttered, shared, retweeted? What does “#BlackLivesMatter” look like in specific spaces, moments, and contexts? How might even the uncritical, non-specific deployment of terms like “coalition” and “solidarity” perpetuate the same forms of abstraction that prevent meaningful and reciprocal coalitional politics in the first place? Consciousness or orientation, Chávez writes, “does not suggest ways to relate to others, nor does it privilege the relational dimensions of political activism” (p. 41). The articulation of “#BlackLivesMatter” cannot alone create the conditions for relationality if it is mobilized passively as merely an orientation. Instead, it is necessary to ask: What can shared struggle look like beyond the bare minimum of abstractly acknowledging Black lives indeed matter? Where are the “anti-Black skeletons”? Whose voice is needed, and when? And how, as Jacqueline Jones Royster asked in 1996, “can we really ‘talk back’ rather than talk also” (p. 38)? 

Relatedly, for scholars and teachers of rhetoric, writing, and culture specifically, it is also deeply critical that we consider the multiple vantages through which we might approach race and racism in the classroom and in our scholarship. Often, one’s inclination might be to embrace with broader and more abstract concepts and frameworks as a way emphasize the widespread historical violences and practices of racialized dehumanization. At the same time, however, it is worth thinking about the limits of these approaches, especially when it comes to moving from merely identifying and analyzing racism to practicing antiracism. Where do we locate the shift from critique to resistance? The former emphasizes the theoretical and abstract, while the latter necessarily gestures towards practices that might be more immediate, messy, and embodied. Defining anti/Blackness from the vantage of relationality and resistance can offer ways of seeing and knowing that work outside of a top-down approach of beginning with the violences of anti-Blackness as a way to argue paradoxically for Black humanity. This is the same logic that justifies the widespread sharing of video proof of Black death—such as the video of Floyd’s murder—as a persuasive appeal for attesting to the reality of anti-Blackness, a practice that often overlooks the ways that these images can themselves be deeply traumatic and anti-Black in their impacts. If the only images of Blackness that circulate are images of dehumanization and death, is there space for amplifying the self-definitional, life-affirming practices of resistance that have always been engaged by Black communities and movements? Indeed, to build what Lugones (2003) refers to as “deep coalitions” that go beyond immediate, “short-term alliances” and instead commit to a sustained, ongoing alignment of one’s own self-understandings, interests, and goals with other oppressed groups (p. 26), a different temporality is needed.

In closing, I think of the June 8, 2020 statement released on Twitter by the Digital Black Lit and Composition (DBLAC) organization, “This is Not a Statement.” In this statement, DBLAC co-founders write, “We are tired . . . of words without actions / of naming anti-Black violence, listing / the victims, and mourning with hashtags / of solidarity with conditions” (DBLAC, 2020). DBLAC thus asks readers “to share what you love and appreciate about Black life on our social media channels” as part of the organization’s foundational commitment to dreaming and imagining “Black futures” beyond anti-Black violence. Anti-Black injustice, they argue, “will only change by dreaming our futures together” (DBLAC, 2020). Here, “dreaming our futures together” avoids idealizing coalition and instead demands modes of collectivity that look forward to the much more difficult and specific life-affirming work that needs to be done not just in response, but also before, after, and during.


[1] See Desta, Yohana (2020), “Ziwe Fumudoh Has Mastered the Art of Putting White People on the Spot” return

[2] My use of the term “canceled” is meant to allude colloquially to what has recently been coined by popular media as “cancel culture.” As Aja Romano (2020) writes, “cancel culture” is when a celebrity or public figure “does or says something offensive,” which often leads to a public backlash usually “fueled by politically progressive social media” that results in the ending of someone’s career, “cultural cachet,” boycotts of their work, and/or “disciplinary action from an employer.” Most recently, the label of “cancel culture” has been mobilized derogatorily by conservative media (i.e., the 2020 Republican National Convention) to offer the problematic critique that the culture of political correctness has “spun out of control” (Romano, 2020). As Romano argues, “cancel culture,” even in spite of conservative critiques, has importantly initiated “broader and more serious conversation about how to hold public figures accountable” and has helped to establish “new ethical and social norms.” The colloquialism of “canceling,” however, actually initially emerged in 2015 on #BlackTwitter as a humorous reaction to someone doing something that is publicly disapproved of before it was taken up popularly in 2020 to invalidate political progressivism (Romano, 2020). I use the term not to support the conservative usage, but rather to point to the distinct register through which public figures like Milano have been critiqued in popular/social media. return

[3] See Crowley, James (2020), “Alyssa Milano Responds to Blackface Rumors, Says It’s a Snooki Spoof” return

[4] See Finkel, Lena (2017), “Stop Giving Alyssa Milano Credit for #MeToo,” and King, Michelle (2018), “Alyssa Milano on What Is Next for #MeToo.” As King’s interview with Milano illustrates, even while Burke is now credited as the founder of Me Too, Milano is still often narrated as the leader of the movement. return

[5] As I argue in “Beyond Rights as Recognition: Black Twitter and Posthuman Coalitional Possibilities” (2016), hashtag protests on Twitter in the wake of the Ferguson Uprisings (2014–2015) like #IfTheyGunnedMeDown and #AliveWhileBlack create horizontal and distributed modes of collectivity that “disidentify with the hypercapitalist composing practices of digital spaces” to imagine alternative politics beyond the inclusionary/utopian dichotomies. These acts uniquely allow for the recognition and revaluation of Black humanity in ways that, “rather than simply disavowing the material necessity of rights, critically and deliberately reveal their . . . violences to build alternative rhetorical imaginaries and possibilities” (Prasad, 2016, pp. 52–3). return

[6] See Brown (2018), “Book, Website Track History of Racist ‘Sundown Towns’ in Minnesota, U.S.” return

[7] According to the “Kindness is Everything” Facebook page, all proceeds from “Kindness is Everything” signs and merchandise are donated to the ACLU (Kindness is Everything, 2021). return

[8] See, for example, Ben & Jerry’s statement, “Defund the Police and Invest in Our Communities” (2020), Airbnb’s article, “Antiracism and Allyship Resources for the Airbnb Community” (2020), and the University of Minnesota president Joan Gable’s statement, “Update from the President on the Death of Minneapolis Resident George Floyd” (2020). return

[9] See the work of Jacqueline Jones Royster, Elaine Richardson, Beverly J. Moss, Carmen Kynard, Valerie Kinloch, Eric Darnell Pritchard, April Baker-Bell, and Tamika L. Carey, among many others. return

[10] In the wake of the March 16, 2021 Atlanta-area shootings of Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Yong Yue, Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Xiaojie Tan, and Daoyou Feng by white man Robert Aaron Long, 88rising, a media company that promotes the work of Asian hip-hop musicians posted a yellow square on Instagram “to show solidarity with the Asian American community” (Blum, 2021). Such yellow squares have also emerged in other social media spaces in response to the shootings, and were subsequently critiqued not only for co-opting the initial impulse of #BlackoutTuesday that was meant to amplify Black voices, but also for visually invoking the racial slur of “yellow” that has been used against Asian and Asian-American communities since as far back as the 19th century Yellow Peril (Blum, 2021). return


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Author Bio

Photo of Pritha PrasadPritha Prasad (she/her/hers) is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Kansas (KU). As a scholar and teacher of critical race and ethnic studies, feminist studies, and queer studies, her research focuses on the ways cultural, political, and educational institutions negotiate the politics of race and racism in the wake of racial unrest. At KU, Pritha teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in cultural studies and rhetorics, rhetoric and composition theory and history, and critical university studies.