Part of my do list this week has been to develop materials for an organizational partner. When an organization is learning how to offer substantive support to LGBTQ employees and their families, it may need some guidance on identifying what “support” actually means.
Who defines the terms of support also matters: so much can go awry when programs grow without the input of the people designed to benefit from them. The organization is fortunate that its stakeholders are as engaged and receptive as they are. I hope it means that they’ll keep designing long-term solutions together.
What with network journalists soft-peddling the rise of overt White supremacist nationalism, and North Dakota police using hosed water in freezing temperatures as weapons against #NoDAPL water protectors, and Flint, MI, still being without clean municipal water, there are so many communities and causes to stand in solidarity with. And various traditions define solidarity in different ways.
M. Shawn Copeland notes that Baptist theologian Walter Rauschenbusch defined solidarity as cosmic relationship—”relationship with God and human persons”— expressed through mutual service. Indigenous activists define solidarity even more directly:
Accomplices aren’t motivated by personal guilt or shame, they may have their own agenda but they are explicit.
Accomplices are realized through mutual consent and build trust. They don’t just have our backs, they are at our side, or in their own spaces confronting and unsettling colonialism. As accomplices we are compelled to become accountable and responsible to each other[;] that is the nature of trust.
Don’t wait around for anyone to proclaim you to be an accomplice, you certainly cannot proclaim it yourself. You just are or you are not. The lines of oppression are already drawn.” (Accomplices not allies: Abolishing the ally industrial complex, May 4, 2014)
Solidarity has material implications, then. Whether we express it through service, through attention, through practical work, or through money, solidarity has to move from notions of agreement (or shared aggrievement) to actions that move matter. It’s visible, Copeland argues, and it has “cognitive, affective, effective, constitutive, and communicative dimensions. It has implications for how we think about or perceive one another and our common situation, how we feel, how we acknowledge the effects we cause, how we arrange or rearrange our environment, and how we present our situation in conversation with one another. Solidarity doesn’t require us all to be alike. It moves to act with others, to serve, and to heal regardless.
That’s the kind of relationship that so many vulnerable people are seeking now. So when we talk about solidarity, this is what we need to be able to offer others. It’s also what many of us need to receive.