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Unequal alliances : nuancing notions of success in cross-racial and cross-issue coalitions
Alexander Maxwell Brott
May 7, 2013
Department or Program
Politics - Environmental Studies
Methyl Iodide, considered one of the most toxic chemicals on earth, was approved for agricultural use in California in 2010. Like most post-DDT pesticides, Methyl Iodide is acutely toxic at application, leaving the bodies of farmworkers disproportionally impacted by its use. This listing was successfully challenged by the diverse California-based anti-pesticide coalition Californians for Pesticide Reform (CPR), but in this study I explore the limitations of merely banning a pesticide. Because it is important to conceptualize pesticides in the context of a broader suite of issues facing a racial group, I explore to what degree CPR foregrounded race in its activism. I argue that CPR’s activism demonstrated an improvement over prior pesticide campaigns in that they intentionally prioritized farmworker voices, but could further benefit by using race-specific language. As food and environmental movements increasingly look to respond to criticisms that they ignore racial issues, these cross-racial, cross-issue coalitions can offer important lessons for future coalition work.