Ange-Marie Hancock (University of Southern California – Dornsife) introduced our seminar to her concept of “Deep Political Solidarity (DPS),” which she developed from her own intellectual dialogue with Hannah Arendt and W.E.B. Du Bois. She explains and explores this concept in her new book Solidarity Politics for Millennials: A Guide to Ending the Oppression Olympics, where she describes DPS as the “active, public demonstration of 10 different qualities” (Hancock, p. 71). These qualities are enacted in the “10 Acts of Deep Political Solidarity” that are listed below:
1. Altruism – Assistance in time of need.
2. Consideration – Avoidance of offense and effective resolution of conflicts.
3. Cooperation – An interest in the common good.
4. Cultural Empathy – Ability to recognize and empathize (not pity) with feelings, thoughts, and behaviors of members of different groups.
5. Emotional Stability – Tendency to remain calm in stressful situations.
6. Fairness – A distributive logic of equity.
7. Flexibility – Ability to adjust one’s familiar ways of acting in response to the demands of new and unknown situations; a tendency to see new situations as a challenge.
8. Open-mindedness – Open and tolerant attitude toward members of different cultural groups and different norms or values.
9. Social Initiative – Tendency to take the initiative and approach other persons.
10. Trustworthiness – Avoiding breeches of implicit or explicit agreements.
These 10 acts demonstrate and deploy DPS in an attempt to move beyond identity politics, to dismantle the mythic monolith of homogeneous group identities, and rebuild a world that reflects the plurality of the human condition. As Hancock puts it in her book:
Focusing on gender, race, class, and sexual orientation as identities ushers in the reification of lived experience, which often leads to paralyzing claims of “uniqueness,” “incommensurability,” and the dreaded Oppression Olympics. Using sexual orientation, gender, class, and race as analytical categories accepts the lived experience of people without making it a condition of group formation, epistemology, or agenda setting, further opening opportunities for deep political solidarity. (Hancock, p. 51).
Hancock’s attempt to move beyond identity politics is instructive and resonates with a Arendt’s pluralistic view of the human experience. It is often the case that categories of race, gender, class, and sexual orientation, not to mention political and religious identities, are insufficient to comprehend the unique experiences and expressions of human beings. In the seminar, Hancock used the example of the early years of the AIDS epidemic, in which the African-American community paid little attention to the crises because it conceived of homosexuality as a “white” lifestyle that had little to do with the black community. The net result of this restrictive identity politics was that many African-American men died because resources, education, and medicine were not made available. The myth of homogeneity that lurks within identity politics needs to be dispelled, but the cultural and political insights of identity politics need to be preserved. Hancock’s model of DPS offers a way to do both, it seems to me.