When faced with a collective dilemma, why do individuals from the same group perceive their strategic choices differently? A growing actor-centered stream of social movements research shows that strategic decision making is a cultural process where actors decide upon a strategy by drawing on past experiences to make sense of the present and anticipate what might happen if they act in a particular way. However, actors’ past experiences are not only contextual and variable, they are also patterned by social location. It is in these patterns that we can better understand the relationship between structure and agency in processes of social change. Integrating an intersectional framework, I draw on evidence from forty focus groups with about 200 Muslim community members discussing the policing of Muslim communities. I find that perceptions of agency are patterned across intersections of race and ethnicity, gender, class, and nativity, driving three central interpretations of the dilemma and strategic decisions: fear and disengagement; anger and grassroots mobilization against police; and neutrality and collaboration with police.

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