“We are all the Republic.” – Lessons in Solidarity and Collective Struggle from the High Republic

Stephanie L.

We are all the Republic.” The motto of the New Republic.

In The Light of the Jedi, we see for the first time how a peaceful, unified Republic functions. And while that certainly gets put to the test as the events of the novel unfold- it is such a clear message of collective struggle. When a catastrophic disaster threatens a star system, no matter your location, occupation, species, rank- everyone helps where they can. It makes no difference if it’s “not your star system” or not a Jedi- it’s simply a matter of you helping someone because help is needed. And consequently, the Republic thrives because your ‘neighbor’ thrives. I think Ahsoka would’ve loved it there.

There are no concerns that helping someone else will somehow hurt you or give you less. There are no discussions about the ones in need being of another species or from another system. There are simply beings helping other beings. They have figured out that we can respect each other’s differences and still be together in one collective struggle.

There are innumerable instances of violence in our society. So many that it doesn’t feel possible to give one the proper time and respect it deserves without ignoring or losing time on another. But, here’s the secret- all of them have things in common, PEOPLE.

Enter: intersectionality

Intersectionality is how the different facets of yourself create overlapping ways you experience privilege and/or discrimination. There is no limit to how you define yourself- race, gender, disability, socioeconomic status, immigrant, “trekkie”, brony, prequel baby, Reylo, etc. This also means there aren’t usually limits to the disadvantages one could face. Our society has been ingrained with binaries- someone wins means someone loses, someone being rich means someone else is poor, someone is right and someone is wrong. Naturally, it follows that many of us think that if someone is doing well then that’s taking something from someone else- and eventually even a best case thinking could be “well, that’s not my problem”. For example, if I, an Asian American, speak out regarding injustice towards the Black community- I may be met with “but I see Black people harming Asians” (translation: Why are you helping them?) or “but shouldn’t you be helping your own Asian community?” (translation: Why are you helping them? Why aren’t you helping us?). There is not a competition for who has things harder or easier. This thinking is an everyday way to keep everyone pitted against each other- it’s “us” or “them”.

We are all the Republic.”- actually, it’s “us” AND “them”- actually, it’s “us”- as in ALL of us. It is ALL of us against the systems that seek to put any of us down.

We are all part of one another”- Yuri Kochiyama

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. If you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” – Lilla Watson

This idea isn’t new either- just not fully understood as well as nuanced. We can all help each other- because solidarity is our way out of this. 

Solidarity does not mean that we are all the same, it means we have a common interest. Intersectionality points to the personal qualities that make us unique, so to dismiss or devalue any part of that means that you are not truly valuing that individual. I grew up in the times when it was popular to be “colorblind” and think of the United States as a “melting pot”. This resulted in the erasure of my own identity and countless others. It assumes that the goal is assimilation- that everyone is the same, which comes at the price of all the amazing parts of your identity. The systems we live in are far from perfect, and it is dangerous to ignore that fact that these systems have had decades and even hundreds of years to build complexities of bias. Yes, there are many needed conversations about things like systemic racism, political policies, etc.- but first remember- THOSE ARE PEOPLE. And the words you use can serve as a way to dehumanize others, whether you intend to or not.

“You’re a slave?”- Padme; “I’m a person and my name is Anakin.”- Anakin

When Kelly Marie Tran underwent racist attacks, was your reaction to listen and remain silent? Was your reaction to post hateful tweets or YouTube videos? Did those words serve to dehumanize her (like beheading Rose Tico figures- yes, this happened)? Was it to find out more about what her experience was, then participate in discussion? 

Marginalized communities need your solidarity in times of joy and in pain. This requires personal risk and bravery. Silence, consistency, and tradition can be comfortable.

Know right from wrong and don’t run away when it gets hard.”- Rose Tico, The Last Jedi

When we speak, please listen to those feelings and acknowledge your impact. Help create space for underrepresented voices, but realize that this comes with immense risk for people on the low end of the power struggle to speak out.  Solidarity means listening to others without centering yourself. During the Kelly Marie Tran attacks, how many comments did you see that was about “her character was stupid anyways”? This comment centers the writer’s feelings about a fictional character over the real life experiences of a human being

Any group, but especially one with a low percentage of the population, low political power, low financial power cannot correct this on their own. Furthermore, placing the burden on the marginalized group to consistently inform others, especially those in power, creates an expectation that further adds to their trauma. 

Right now, solidarity means that you will step in and first show vocal support with me- name the harmful ways systems of oppression are damaging people. Call in people when you hear words that harm or mislead others. Not sure what to say? Solidarity also means you value someone’s identity enough to learn. You can show how you value their identity and humanity by simply conducting a Google search. In The Light of the Jedi, we see one of the few Wookie Jedis- Burryaga Agaburry. Burryaga is notably uncomfortable in social situations because of the language barriers. However, he deeply feels  the emotions of others and ultimately becomes responsible for the rescue of many lives that would’ve otherwise been lost. Burryaga’s Jedi Master Nib Assek learns Shriiwook, the Wookie language, to be a better teacher to him. The novel does a great job centering Burryaga’s experience, rather than glorifying his Master’s effort in learning Shriiwook.

Listen to others, but take it upon yourself to reflect, learn, and possibly unlearn. Maybe we aren’t addressing the framework of oppression, because we simply haven’t done the work to find out what it is. How and why did we get to this point? Reflect on your own thinking. Much of what our natural life experience tells us doesn’t include the honest depth of history or breadth of current events.  A search for identity has been central to Season 2 of The Mandalorian. What it means for Din Djarin to be Mandalorian has vastly changed, much of that in part because his knowledge of the history of Mandolore (and thus what it means to be Mandalorian) was incomplete. We’ve seen him accept the father role as part of his identity and also learn to leave other parts of his identity behind. When you think about Bo-Katan Kryze doesn’t that call to mind the complicated and still incomplete history of Mandalore? Sabine Wren’s life is defined by both her choices and the system of oppression that kept her family under the control of the Empire. Sabine spends much of Rebels rediscovering her identity. At times, she is cast out by different sects of Mandalorians, disassociated with her family, and has constant regret from her time with the Empire. How much of your perceptions of Boba Fett have changed now that we have so much more history of both him, Jango Fett, and Mandalore in general? How have these various Mandalorians been affected by the erasure of their culture? If we can understand that Mandalorians are not all the same (the pacifist New Mandalorians, Old Mandalorians, Death Watch, Children of the Watch, Foundlings) then we can apply that same learning to people of the real world (Asians are not a monolith).

When you think of the children on Canto Bight do you see the systems that keep them there?

When I say the word “smuggler” and your brain jumps to Han Solo, do you also think about the circumstances that lead to him becoming a smuggler? And what of Qi’ra? 

This work isn’t easy and it is not comfortable. You will make mistakes. As I stated previously silence can be comfortable. However, your silence and inaction sends a message to others and generations to come that some people don’t matter and that we will continue to be erased, dismissed, and disrespected. If you love any part of Star Wars, then part of you recognizes the solidarity in those stories. We don’t all make it out of the Battle of Crait when no one comes for Leia’s call. We don’t all get more time or another opportunity to fight.

Solidarity means going past being anti-hate and being actively pro-those being victimized.