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Societies 2016, 6(2), 13; doi:10.3390/soc6020013

How Can I Trust You if You Don’t Know Who You Are? The Consequences of a Fluid Identity on Cross-Racial Organizing between African American Women and Latinas in Atlanta

Center for the Study of Culture Race and Ethnicity, Ithaca College, 101 Center for Health Sciences, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA
Academic Editor: Gregor Wolbring
Received: 8 January 2016 / Revised: 22 March 2016 / Accepted: 11 April 2016 / Published: 22 April 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Cross-racial and Cross-ethnic Personal and Group Relationships)
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Abstract

Scholarship in the area of cross-racial organizing between Latina/o and African Americans has increased substantially over the past ten years. Within that literature, scholars have identified many reasons why cross-racial coalitions both succeed and fail. Among the factors most often cited is the issue of trust. Despite the recognition of the crucial role trust plays in cross-racial organizing, little attention has been paid to what contributes to actually building trust between African Americans and Latina/o. I argue that one factor contributing to the distrust of Latinas among African American women involved in cross-racial organizing in Atlanta is the perceived discrepancy between Latinas’ own asserted identity and the identity assigned to them by African American women organizers. Using data gathered from six years of participant observation and forty interviews conducted with African American women and Latinas organizing in Georgia, I discuss the consequences of identity construction for cross-racial organizing. I find that within cross-racial organizing spaces in Atlanta, perceived racial identities are used by African American women as proxies for determining Latina organizers’ commitment to social justice and, correspondingly, how much individual Latinas can be trusted. Specifically, I find that African American respondents view Latina identity as optional and potentially white. Latina respondents, on the other hand, assert strong identities and contend that their perceived “optional” identities are a function of what Anzaldúa calls a mestiza consciousness or the straddeling of multiple identities. I argue that understanding how these identities are assigned and asserted by Latinas and African American women is a crucial and often-overlooked component to building trust, and by extension, to building sustainable cross-racial coalitions. View Full-Text
Keywords: cross-racial organizing; trust; identity; race; African Americans and Latinas/os cross-racial organizing; trust; identity; race; African Americans and Latinas/os
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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González, B. How Can I Trust You if You Don’t Know Who You Are? The Consequences of a Fluid Identity on Cross-Racial Organizing between African American Women and Latinas in Atlanta. Societies 2016, 6, 13.

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