By Jeroen Robbe
Race Class Narrative Checklist is a tool for increasing inclusion and solidarity in movements, by ensuring we push back against racism and classism.
As reactionary movements around the world have built power, they have developed narratives that have proven incredibly effective at translating their worldview into societal “common sense.” These dangerous narratives often have class-based overtones (us vs. them) and they often employ coded racialized language to paint a picture of their enemies.
This tool is the product of empirical research in the United States on how to fight back. It is aimed at shifting the narrative and framing on how movement organizations talk about the interconnected issues of race and class. As a result of its origin, some of the reference points are rooted in the US experience, but many of the overall principles are more broadly applicable.
How does this tool support leaderful movements?
A leaderful movement for social justice implies a broad-based collective effort defined by its ability to name and build a “bigger we” in society. By comparison, backlash movements define their constituency in terms of division and exclusionary categories of identity, and they use the tactics of scapegoating already marginalized communities to advance their political program.
Therefore, organizers seeking to build leaderful movements need tools for how to have 1:1 conversations and frame campaigns in ways that shift the debate in our favour and build movements that have space for a broad cross-section of society.
This tool is an effective way to grow in several leaderful organizing competence areas. By reconnecting race and class in the narrative we build active solidarity, which is an essential value in our leaderful organizing approach.
It is essentially a tool that helps us to communicate better on two levels:
(1) more in line with our values and
(2) generating more impact in getting across to the people we want to organize.
In 2017, not long after Donald Trump announced the arrival of reactionary right-wing populism into mainstream American politics, a number of organizations and key movement thinkers in the United States launched a project to empirically study what narratives could be used to counteract Trump’s way of making sense of the world. The result was the Race Class Narrative which has led to the development of a number of tools including this simple checklist for how to develop compelling and inclusive political and organizing messages.
In theoretical circles, and some movement spaces, there is a substantial amount of debate about the interplay between race and class as structuring forces over society. Unfortunately these are sometimes pitted against one another, with pejorative descriptions of “identity politics” hurled in one direction, and accusations of “class reductionism” hurled in the other. A theory of “racial capitalism” has tried to synthesize these elements towards an understanding about the ways in which race and class co-create and reinforce each other within our current political economy. An early and influential thinker, Stuart Hall, the Jamaican-born, UK-based political theorist famously said that “race is the modality in which class is lived.” On the international level this is easy to see, with white-European descendant countries at the top of a global class structure. But as countries in the Global North have become more racially diverse, this racial division of labour is more often experienced even in one country.
Therefore, while this checklist tool may feel almost simplistic, the debates and tangled reality behind it are quite complex. This tool creates an accessible entry point for the organizer who is looking for practical applications of the theoretical.
- Framing Issues for Social Justice Impact: Directory of Messaging Guides
- The Race Class Narrative: A race messaging framework to engage the base and persuade the middle
- How to Change the Narrative / Story
- Talking about Race: Racial Equity Resources
- Leaderful Organizing Tools
- Campaigning - Grassroots
- Communication - Messaging
- Communities_Community building / engagement
- Critical thinking
- Group skills
- Organising - Community
- Organising - One on Ones 1:1
- Social classes
- Story_Narrative - Guides_Manuals