What is Solidarity? For an answer, we look to Martin Luther King, in his Letter from the Birmingham Jail… “In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be…This is the inter-related structure of reality.”
Those who oppress don’t see it that way. Oppression rends our single garment of destiny. Sociologist, Joe Feagin, states: “Oppression requires in oppressors a lack of recognition of the full humanity of racialized others. Essential to being an oppressor is a significantly reduced ability to understand or relate to the emotions, such as recurring pain, of those targeted by oppression.” Feagin goes on to say that this lack of recognition is essential to the creation and maintenance of a racist society.
So as a white person, here’s the question I am challenged with today… Do I truly link my own destiny with the destiny of those who have, and continue to be, oppressed due to the color of their skin?
The pathway to Solidarity appears to be a steep uphill, but not impossible, climb. Somehow we must dig deep into our cultural system of meanings and values to expose the source of our, as Feagin puts it, “anti-empathetic inclinations essential to racial oppression”. In the days and months ahead, may we all increase our understanding, and relate more to the emotions, of those subjected to oppression.