Monday, November 10, 2014

What is solidarity?

For the past weeks, my mind has been consumed with the idea of solidarity and what it truly means within movements for social change, and more specifically groups of marginalized backgrounds on Colgate's campus who are fighting for equity. The online definition of solidarity is as follows: the unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest. Essentially solidarity is defined as mutual support within a group. However, I get stuck on the word support, especially because the word cannot be universally defined and looks extremely different given the group and context of the individuals. I have spent this past semester reading the work of Lorde, Moraga, hooks, AnzaldĂșa, Davis, and many many more feminist writers, which has pushed me to think of what solidarity could look like amongst groups who are different.  

To me solidarity does in fact mean support, but more specifically support that acknowledges difference, validates the individual experience and realizes how these experiences are interconnected within a larger systemic conversation (white supremacy) in which we are all implicatedWe must moved beyond "I hear you," "I see you" or I'll send an email to my members about your event and ask the hard questions that we fear will tear us even further a part. Lorde states in The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master's House that "difference must be not merely tolerated, but seen as a fund of necessary polarities between which our creativity can spark like a dialectic. Only then does the necessity for interdependency become unthreatening. Only within that interdependency of difference strengths, acknowledged and equal, can the power to seek new ways of being in the world generate, as well as the courage and sustenance to act where there are no charters." Merely acknowledging one another is not enough, in my opinion, and further creates a larger gap between one another.

So then my question because how can organizatons like Black Student Union, Latin American Student Organization, Sisters of the Round Table, Brothers, Advocates, Organization of Asian Sisters in Solidarity, Colgate International Community, African Student Union, Anti-Racism Coalition, Hawaii Club, Korean Cultural Association, Chinese Interest Association, and so on come together to enact change on this campus? I understand the importance of our organizations and the spaces that these pockets of hope, healing, and love provide but it worries me as a student leader and marginalized identity that we (excuse my generalization) do not understand each others struggles, concerns, and histories especially in the context of Colgate. I am also aware that we are students with lives and have to perform academically, but I cannot help but feel that idea that we must pick our battles is constructed within the white racial frame as well. Why is that I have to chose between my identity as a women, Latina, and feminist? Why is it that we have to teach our campus about our identities, that we have to do everything for our clubs to have a presence on this campus, why is it we have to fight to be seen, and especially why is it that this campus does not support us? Again, the burden is placed on us, marginalized identities, to make a space for ourselves, to educate the larger community about our struggles, strengths and histories. 

But to bring it back home and leave the idea of teaching the majority about our existence for another conversation, I simply don't buy it. I think we can fight for it all. Maybe I am too optimistic but I have witnessed it. I have seen individuals who are so different come together to fight against one thing despite their own experiences and opinions to make a place they love better and equitable.

Solidarity to me looks like love. It looks like emotion whether it be happiness or sadness. It looks like that moment when you gaze into someone's eyes and they actually feel you. It looks like tears and laughter. It looks critical and conscious. It is political and personal.  And most importantly it looks like an agreement that I cannot fight this without you. I end this post with another line from Lorde's piece that summarizes my thoughts on solidarity, "in our world, divide and conquer must become define and empower."


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