What Soulforce’s Work through Sol&Res Has To Do with the NFL

I recently read an article about the ongoing debate over the name of the football team in Washington, D.C. “Nothing scarier than a nervous white man – The “R**skins” debate is really about white privilege” by Steven Salaita and something clicked for me. I read this quote, “I instead would like to argue that the redskin has little to do with actual Indians and almost everything to do with the peculiar disquiet of a whiteness perceived to be in decline.” And, it was in that moment – the precise moment I read that – in which I felt something deep within. Look, as a gay, Native American – a member of the Chippewa Cree tribe of Rocky Boy, Montana – loss is real. I felt I better understood why injustice maintains its strong grasp onto the tools of power and violence.

Loss is scary. Losing a loved one to a terminal disease, losing a cherished family pet, or losing a sense of culture and tradition due to a cultural genocide is debilitating. There are studies that suggest that pain and trauma can be passed down through DNA. And I believe I carry the resiliency and pain of my people with me in all I do—from the “Indian boarding schools,” where generations of kids from my tribe were sent to unlearn their own languages and customs, to countless wars waged by the American government against Native peoples, to the devastating history of European diseases like smallpox and bubonic plague that killed 90% of the pre-Columbian Native population in the Americas.

Losses as big as power, self, identity, or control are difficult to cope with and accept. Many of us in the LGBTQ community understand this implicitly from our coming out experiences. When I came out to my parents, I was reeling at the thought I’d lose them or their love. Worse, I was sick to my stomach at the possibility of loss of relationship with my younger brothers. The fear of loss is real and tangible.

Fear of loss of power, of cultural influence, of “normalcy,” or “the way things have always been,” is much of what Soulforce confronts as it resists the fundamentalism that affects our ability to live freely as LGBTQ people.

Naming the impulses of fear and hanging onto power is also what we plan to do as we launch the new online community Sol&Res (Solidarity & Resistance) later this month. Sol&Res will be a unique online forum where activists can discuss the causes and strategize resistance to fundamentalism in its many forms: homophobia and transphobia, sexism and patriarchy, racism and white supremacy, colonization and anti-immigrant bias.

Our work will also examine the many ways in which fundamentalism misuses religion— the beliefs, rituals, and texts that many of us hold to be the most sacred elements of life—as both a tool and shield in its perpetuation of injustice.

Sol&Res is an important part of Soulforce’s growing focus on intersectionality—that is, doing activism that seeks and confronts common roots to multiple issues of injustice.

The launch of Sol&Res is the culmination of countless hours, energy, thought, love, and commitment to social justice on the part of 8 multigenerational activists around the country from many backgrounds.

I like to think I understand things differently now, since working with this fabulous group of people in the ways we can see fundamentalism as the root of oppression. And, I’m so wonderfully humbled at the creative avenues these folks take to analyze fundamentalism and oppression.

Our work continues the fabulous work you know from Soulforce – confronting oppression of LGBTQ folks and finding ways to reconcile with our adversaries. The aim of Sol&Res is to illuminate all the ways oppression is perpetuated, expose them, and offer strategies, language, and analysis to work toward a more just and equal society.

The great thing about this—and what the entrenched supporters of the name of a certain football team in Washington, D.C. have yet to understand—is that a gain for marginalized communities is not a loss for others. Justice is not a zero-sum game.

I invite you to join us, whether you’re a long-term Soulforce supporter, or if you’re somebody new who feels something inside that calls you to look at oppression in an intersectional way. I especially ask you to join if in the past you’ve been an adversary to Soulforce’s work. I think that our adversaries need to hear something from us: I see you, neighbor. We see you, neighbor. We hear you, neighbor. And we appreciate you. So please join with us in working to create a more just world.

Sol&Res will examine more deeply the impact of fundamentalism with hopes to expand the thought around intersectionality and social justice. And, most importantly, with the thought of beginning to reconcile. It’s not a loss if we gain. It’s not win or lose. Social justice always has and always will be about equity and win-win.