Disrupting Rainbow Capitalism: ‘We will not be commodified or erased.”

Brandi Douglas, Steph Viera · June 22, 2021

Disrupting Rainbow Capitalism: ‘We will not be commodified or erased.”

"Commodification of the rainbow flag and Queer culture does little to nothing to benefit those within the 2SLGBTQ+ community itself, nor does it address the violence continually directed towards these relatives."

Indigenous Peoples are no strangers to cultural appropriation, or the exploitative and profit-driven aspirations often associated with these long-standing and colonial endeavors. Non-Indigenous individuals and businesses far and wide lean in, placing dreamcatchers and sage on their shelves while at the same time speaking of their chosen spirit animals and defending their Indian mascots, having no critical thought or awareness of the harm inflicted upon the Indigenous community by their actions of appropriation. 

Addressing these matters often results in the declaration that these acts of cultural appropriation are merely demonstrations of “respect” and solidarity, and that those within the Indigenous community who are negatively impacted by these actions should actually be grateful for the non-Indigenous interest in and exhibition of their cultures. Yet we know better: Cultural appropriation is violent, extractive and profit-driven, seeking to maintain systems of colonialism and white supremacy while silencing and maintaining the invisibility of Indigenous people, our cultures and experiences.

Commodification of the rainbow flag and Queer culture does little to nothing to benefit those within the 2SLGBTQ+ community itself, nor does it address the violence continually directed towards these relatives.

As June rolls around every year and Pride month ensues, our 2SLGBT+ relatives face a similar reality with yet another intersection of appropriation: profit-driven “allyship” and erasure with the appropriation of the rainbow flag, as corporations and small businesses alike, under the guise of solidarity, paint the landscape rainbow– from products to dedicated store sections, altered logo colors, advertisements and social media campaigns, rainbow capitalism, otherwise known as pink capitalism and/or pink washing, takes center stage.

Photo by rblfmr

As is the case with the appropriation of Indigenous cultures, this commodification of the rainbow flag and Queer culture does little to nothing to benefit those within the 2SLGBTQ+ community itself, nor does it address the violence continually directed towards these relatives. More often than not, these corporations completely fail to shed light on the origins of Pride as an act of resistance, led by Black and Brown Queers, whose efforts were centered on liberation. Meanwhile, these same corporations profit off of the Queer struggle.

In their OpEd, “How Rainbow Capitalism Harms the Origins of What Pride is About,” non-binary abolitionist and organizer, Da’Shaun Harrison, further expands on the origins of Pride as, “intended to disrupt cisheteronormativity.” Harrison says, “It is a response to police violence and an intentional act of rebellion. Yet every year in June, major corporations paint their products in rainbow colors while Pride event coordinators book celebrity entertainers and invite politicians to partake in the festivities. Around the world, cities paint their towns with the colors of the rainbow to celebrate the occasion, often ignoring the ancestors who set the stage.”

Despite the liberative tenants of Pride, born out of pivitol events such as the 1969 QTBIPOC-led Stonewall uprisings, many in the Queer community continue to embrace the rainbow as a beacon of opportunity, affording a sense of safety, visibility and inclusivity within a society that has been slow to foster such an environment.

Showing up for yourself and your community is enough.

Still others, such as NDN Collective’s Social Media Manager, Steph Viera, recalls their first steps into the Pride scene and the pressure to adorn rainbow as a means of declaring their Queer and non-binary visibility.  “In June of 2018, I attended my first Pride event. I was both excited and nervous to attend, as the West Hollywood area of Los Angeles is absolutely Queer, but above all, white,” Viera shared. 

“At that time, I was still questioning coming out and not yet exploring the fluidity of my gender identity. Above all, I wanted to appear Queer enough to be celebrating myself and my friends that June. My first instinct was to adopt the rainbow into my Pride attire, although it was way outside of my normal all-black and very casual ensembles,” said Viera. “Admittedly it was out of character for me, but the pressures of the ever-present Pride clothing ads in June dawned on me and pushed me to give in.”

“Looking back, there was absolutely nothing wrong with pulling up in the old pair of comfy jeans with a rainbow heart to signify my queerness,” said Viera. “There would’ve been nothing wrong with my standard clothing, either. Showing up for yourself and your community is enough.”

Unsplash image by Karl Bewick

In recognizing the growing commodification of the rainbow, it’s worth pausing and reflecting on how, in the absence of a rainbow, we as 2SLGBT+ community members can feel free to exist and reclaim this time of celebration, reminding those hell-bent on enmeshing our existence with the ills of capitalism that we won’t be commodified or erased. And that the safety attached to this symbolism that so many of us in the Queer community feel we have no choice but to embrace, is in actuality, a societal failure in helping us to feel safe, wherever we are, as we are.

As Viera poignantly shared, “Showing up for yourself and your community is enough.” And it is. It absolutely is.

It is this ever-lasting struggle that embodies the true symbolism behind Pride– Pride in which our Black and Brown Queer ancestors imagined, struggled and died for. This is the torch we now carry: The freedom to simply be. To come as we are. Rainbow, or not.


Looking for ways to disrupt rainbow capitalism while continuing to celebrate and honor Pride 365 days out of the year? Consider donating to QTBIPOC-led organizations/movements. Here are a handful:

Brandi Douglas
by   Brandi Douglas

Brandi Douglas (she/they), NDN Collective’s Senior Communications Associate, is a Puyallup Tribal member as well as Black and Mexican, from Washington state. In her role, she provides support to the Communications and Narratives Team as well as all aspects of content production and targeted outreach. Brandi is an avid wordsmith, having uplifted various narratives that speak to the experience of being an Indigenous entrepreneur, woman of color and queer. Brandi holds a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies from the University of Washington as well as a master’s degree in Indigenous Peoples Law from the University of Oklahoma.

Steph Viera
by   Steph Viera

Steph Viera (they/them), NDN Collective Social Media Manager, is Diné and Salvadorian from California. Steph administers all NDN social media platforms on a daily basis and builds dynamic social media strategies that maintain the vision and mission of NDN Collective. They hold a bachelor’s degree in Film, Television, and Media where they studied storytelling, digital media production, and media representation.

November 2022 Edition

Stay Informed. Take Action.

Subscribe to the NDN allies newsletter

Sign up to get our newsletter. Delivered once per month.

We care about the protection of your data and would never sell your email or share it with anyone without your permission.

NDN Collective Statement on COP27 Negotiation Outcomes Posted 12 hours ago
"We call on nation states to sever their relationships to the fossil fuels industry, fully commit to phasing out of fossil fuels, and utilize the core tenets of a Just Transition. Anything less is a failure to all of humanity.”
NDN Collective Responds to Mass Shooting of 2SLGBTQIA+ Relatives in Colorado Springs Posted 7 days ago
"As 2 spirit and queer individuals we long for spaces that are safe. We long for spaces that we can show up in and be our unapologetic queer selves without the fear of persecution. What happened to our relatives in Colorado is a violation of that sacred space and only triggers a more profound hyper vigilance of our spaces, our communities and of ourselves."
COP27: NDN Collective's Recap of Week One at the United Nations 27th Annual Conference of the Parties (COP) in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt Posted 2 weeks ago
"Our delegation has been participating in the Indigenous Peoples Caucus and the Local Communities Indigenous Peoples Platform, as well as tracking negotiations, meeting with government officials, and more."
COP27: NDN Collective Meets with White House Climate Advisor Posted 2 weeks ago
In their discussion with White House Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi, NDN Collective, alongside frontline Indigenous and Black organizers touched on issue areas including IRA, mining, oil and gas leases.
VIDEO: NDN Collective Streams ICWA Rally on Steps of U.S. Supreme Court as Brackeen v. Haaland Oral Arguments are Heard

Brandy Calabaza

Posted 2 weeks ago
The outcry of support for ICWA, Tribal sovereignty, and the intervening Tribes involved in this case brought relatives together from across Turtle Island. Hundreds  gathered together in prayer, song, and medicine for the conversation about to take place inside the doors of the Supreme Court on Wednesday, November 9.
NDN Collective Responds to Midterm Election Results, Highlighting Wins for Tribes and Indian Country, Climate Justice and Reproductive Justice Posted 3 weeks ago
“These historic wins show that many believe in the foundation and leadership of Indigenous people, particularly Indigenous women. Over the next few years, the fierceness of our communities will come to the forefront of important battles for our collective rights."
COP27: Indigenous Climate Expert Gives Speech at COP27 World Leaders Summit Posted 3 weeks ago
“We have to center rights and community wellbeing if we are really going to develop the holistic solutions and approaches that are necessary to truly enable effective action for a just transition for people and the planet.”
COP27: Indigenous Peoples’ Pavilion Opens   Posted 3 weeks ago
“The Indigenous Peoples Pavilion provides space and resources for Indigenous relatives from across the globe to share knowledge and strategize around getting real solutions in front of decision makers who can – and must – take bold action to save our shared planet.”
NDN Collective Hosts ICWA Conversation with Rebecca Nagle Ahead of Major Supreme Court Case that Threatens Tribal Sovereignty

Brandi Douglas

Posted 3 weeks ago
Brackeen v. Haaland (2021) is a case whose ruling could shake the entire foundation of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), impacting Native American children, families, land and Tribal sovereignty as we know it.
NDN Collective Announces 2022 Radical Imagination Artist Cohort Posted 4 weeks ago
“The aspirations of our people, and our movement is amplified and made visible by artists and creatives, we have a lot to say and they speak through their expression – which can come in the form of a painting, a song, a poem, or a performance."

United like never before, we rise together—arm in arm—to equip all Indigenous Peoples with the tools needed to become architects of our future. Through a holistic approach to infrastructure, funding, advocacy, movement building, and philanthropy we are fostering a world of justice and equity for all people and the planet.