Wednesday, December 9, 2015

"I stand in solidarity." ... "Oh really?"


Solidarity is a word that has a new and deeper meaning for me today than it did 16 months ago.

Sixteen months ago, solidarity was an idea. It was a sense of common purpose. Of agreement. Of "I'm on your side."

Solidarity was something I said. A word used in letters to the editor, Facebook posts and sermons.

I stand in solidarity with _______.

Solidarity was expressing support without risking anything except perhaps the passing ire of those who disagreed with me.

Solidarity was just a word.

Sixteen months ago, Michael Brown was killed and lay in the street for four and a half hours. And a group of young people stood up together and said: "No more."

And I said, "I stand in solidarity with you."

And they said: "Oh really?"

They said: "You can't just say: 'I stand in solidarity.' You have to actually stand in solidarity."

"Stand in the street with us."

"Stand facing the police in their riot gear."

"Stand facing the tear gas and the rubber bullets and the pepper spray."

"Stand and march with us and don't be afraid of our anger, don't be afraid of our pain."

"Stand and care less about your own feelings and more about ours."

"Stand and listen to our stories and believe them."

"Stand and let everyone see you standing with us."

"Stand and don't tell us what to say or how to feel or what to do."

"Stand and respect our leadership. Stand and respect our authority."

"That's solidarity."

"That's family."

"That's love."

And so I did. Or at least I tried to. I didn't always. But I tried to.

And I am learning that solidarity is so much more than just a word.

I am learning that solidarity is being willing to stand in front of someone when they are under attack because you love them so much an injury to them is an injury to you.

I am learning that solidarity is what God did when "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" -- that it was physical and messy and risky and scary.

I am learning that solidarity not only means standing up but it means sitting down or turning away is nothing less than betrayal.

I am learning that solidarity is more than just a word -- it its about deep relationship. It is about family. It is about love.

This week, in the wake of the massacre in San Bernadino and the evil statements by Donald Trump, I have had many opportunities to sign statements of solidarity.

"I stand in solidarity with my Muslim brothers and sisters."

It would be the easiest thing to do to sign those statements. To make those Facebook posts and tweets. To preach that sermon.

But every time I start to, I hear the voices of Brittany Ferrell and Alexis Templeton and Derrick Robinson and Traci Blackmon and Starsky Wilson and so many others. I hear them say:

"Solidarity? Oh really?"

And I am convicted that I have not earned the right to use that word.

I am convicted that I have not "stood in solidarity with my Muslim sisters and brothers," and to say so would be a betrayal of that word and what it has come to mean to me. A betrayal of all who truly have stood and now stand in solidarity with the Muslim community.

I am convicted that I have lived in St. Louis for nearly 20 years and I though I have acquaintances who are Muslim, I have never taken the time truly to listen to their experience and believe it. I have never given up power and privilege for them. I have never risked one thing out of love for them.

These words: Solidarity. Family. They mean something different to me now. And so while I absolutely stand against the demonization of Muslims and the evil that is spewing from Donald Trump's mouth and the support and silence coming from so many of his supporters, I cannot in good conscience say I stand in solidarity with my sisters and brothers who are Muslim because I have not.

I cannot in good conscience pretend to have a level of relationship I do not, to stand where I have never stood.

Not yet.

But I want to.

So that is my commitment. Not to sign a "statement of solidarity" but to seek out deep relationship ... relationships of "fictive kinship" (as Amy Hunter has taught me), relationships where I hope to find ways I can listen and believe and risk and trust and give away power and privilege. Relationships where I hope people will be as graceful and giving to me as Brittany, Alexis, and so many others have been to me in the past -- trusting me enough to invite me into solidarity that is so much more than a word.

I am tired of statements. Statements do not move me to change oppressive status quos. Statements do not call me into the thin places of risk, the ways of the cross. Statements absolve my conscience and do little else.

So I am not making a statement, I am stating a desire. And I'm asking any who are reading this to hold me accountable to it and, if these words resonate with you, to join me in it.

Not to say: "I stand in solidarity" but to actively seek to do it.

And to expect in the process to be changed forever.


Kurt said...

Brilliant and insightful: "stating a desire" to truly move to the place of solidarity and family.

Colette Clarke Torres (Glass Covered Heart) said...

This is "church" and I thank you for entering into "fictive kinship" and fir encouraging me to do the same in Austin, TX.