What does it mean to stand in solidarity with someone? I have a friend who talks about standing in solidarity with undocumented immigrants. Others talk about standing with the poor and oppressed. Still others want to stand with the people connected to the Occupy Wall Street movement. I know people who desire to stand in solidarity with the people of Haiti, Palestine, and those fighting for freedom in the Arab Spring. What does it mean to walk in someone else’s shoes and see the world from another perspective? Is this even possible?
A little over a decade ago our family moved into an urban neighborhood, motivated by John Perkins’s three “R’s” – redistribution, reconciliation and relocation. Moving from the suburbs to the city has been life changing. Issues such as public education, gang activity, racism, classism, and immigration take on a whole different meaning when one is living with those who are directly impacted by these concerns. Our boys attended a low performing school. I witness the dehumanization that subtle racism causes on a daily basis.
Am I standing in solidarity? Maybe, maybe not.
I have always had the option to move – to a “better,” more Anglo neighborhood. Not all my neighbors have this option. I don’t have to stay and this fact puts me in a whole different space.
Solidarity has something to do with experiencing the pain; knowing what feels like to wonder where your next meal is coming from, or not knowing if a loved one has been picked up and taken to an immigration detention center.
I remember the third time our house was broken in to the police officer said that we had been targeted because we were white. That was a frustrating day – we had been picked on simply because of the color of our skin. That was also a day when I began to feel just a little (very little) how my friends of color must feel when they are targeted simply because of how they look.
I don’t wish harm to anyone, but is seems to me that if we are going to stand in solidarity with others we also must risk experiencing what they experience. This can be scary.