‘Solidarity’ should not be supremacist charity: The best definition of the word yet

I came across a brilliant definition of the word “solidarity” in a letter to musician Stanley Jordan shortly before he chose to back out of his performance at the Red Sea Jazz Festival this month in Eilat, Israel. The definition itself was originally written as a comment to Jordan on a Facebook post announcing his decision to play. Rima Merriman, faculty member of the English Department at Al Quds University, found so much power in the definition that she quoted it in full in her letter to Jordan. Four days and hundreds of messages of concern later, Jordan canceled his performance.

Here is Adrian Boutureira Sansberro’s take on the word (emphasis is my own):

“Firstly, we are in solidarity with the oppressed, not the oppressor. Secondly, being in solidarity entails being able to take direction from those one claims to be in solidarity with. Learning how to take direction, as to what is it that those we are in solidarity with wish us to do, is a huge aspect of shifting the relationships of power between the oppressed and the oppressor. It is also a way to really come face to face with our own true commitment and power issues. To do as we wish, is not being in solidarity. It is practicing supremacist charity. I say supremacist, because even when people claim to be in solidarity, they refuse to relinquish their own power and privilege as individuals. They refuse to surrender their own interests. They refuse to recognize that the collective must always be greater than the individual, or we are not in solidarity at all. We are then independent actors who cannot accept taking direction for whatever reason.”

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There are 2 comments

  1. Adrian Boutureira

    Dear Sami,

    As much as I appreciate having my name connected to these thoughts, it would be disingenuous for me to claim them as original in any way. The ideas I present here have their origin in my contact with the lives and experiences of both, those most affected by a particular oppression, as well as with those who are working in true solidarity with them. It is from hearing and learning from their voices that I’ve come to live my solidarity experience as such. I wished to learn to be a better revolutionary and embarked upon that road, where I have been generously taught but many a much better revolutionary.

    I believe that the wisdom and strength of our struggle for justice lie in our collective voice. We are each but mere echoes of that shared voice. Perhaps learning how to be in true solidarity is as simple as being willing to be more enamored with the sound of that voice than with that of our own…

    Solidaridad,

    Adrian

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