ReThink: Solidarity

I am a man and I'm white.  While that description doesn't identify the whole of my being, I’ve learned it is something I need to constantly remind myself of.

As a white male, I've been lucky enough to have a life ripe with opportunity and promise.  I attended a private, Christian, predominantly white high school.  I was an athlete, in the pep band, and an AP student.  As part of the “elite” (whatever that means…) group of students at Calvary Chapel High School, my voice and opinions seemed to matter.  In my AP US History and Government classes, I remember learning about slavery, women’s suffrage, how and why poverty exists, points of view on immigration, and the pros/cons of capitalism but didn't give them much of my attention because, after all, they were merely parts of history that didn't really affect me personally in any way.  I understood that they were struggles of past generations and people groups but was convinced the world had overcome those problems once and for all.  My friends and I even began to boast about how we didn’t see color, gender, class, or other identifying labels, but that we saw everyone as the same and therefore were better than most conservative Christians we knew. 

It took years to realize that as a white male, I was and am inherently representative of systemic oppression against minorities.  My self proclaimed moderacy, blinded me to the fact that my ability to “not see color” was a luxury that people of oppressed minorities do not have.  A person of color endures a multitude of struggles and hinderances that I will never experience; struggles that are beyond their control because of their skin color.  They don’t have the luxury of separating their race or gender from their politics or sociology like I do.  When I choose to ignore someone’s race,  gender, religion, or sexual orientation, I discredit the struggles and experiences that influence their identity.  My silence and choice to ignore makes me complicit in the oppression they face.  

Originally, all the revelations about my role in the oppression of minorities, like the one I just described, disheartened me.  I experienced guilt and shame that permeated my day to day life.  Such is the experience of many ‘waking’ white people.  At some point, I realized I would never truly be ‘woke’ until I saw my whiteness not as a burden (for more on this google white guilt and white fragility) but as an opportunity.  As a person of both male and white privilege, I have one of the most valued voices in society…meaning I have the greatest opportunity to affect change.  Through constant listening to the voices of the oppressed and confronting my own racism, sexism, etc., I can be equipped to act out of solidarity for the betterment of all people, especially the marginalized.  

The final key to understand the need for solidarity was a better understanding of the cross.  Rather than understanding the Crucifixion to be a transaction or exchange for salvation, I came to see it as the culmination point of Jesus’ life of solidarity.  From Incarnation to Crucifixion, Jesus experienced human life in all its forms and mortal death in all its agony.  The God Of All Comfort every day took part in the human experience, feeling every emotion and struggle along the way, leading up to his death.  Through the death and Resurrection, life in all its forms has been redeemed.  The good news of this interpretation is that God’s solidarity continues on today.  Like in the parable of the Good Samaritan, God comes along side us, recognizes our identities and struggles and claims them his/her own.  God comes along side us and says, “Hey, I love you and I’m here WITH you.”  In this reading of the Gospel, a traditionally authoritarian and sometimes distant God is wholly present and relational.  God becomes the divine agent of solidarity and empathy, enduring our quest for collective liberation with us every step of the way.  

How can we become agents of solidarity and allies to oppressed people?

  1. Know what racism, sexism, classism, etc. are
  2. Understand white privilege and male privilege and how it can help further equality
  3. Be intolerant of intolerance
  4. Realize that your education about the experiences of minorities is not the responsibility of the minority.  It is your own responsibility.  
  5. Have difficult conversations with your friends and family
  6. Be self-aware…Confront your own racism 
  7. Be generous with your time and money 
  8. Exercise inclusion and empathy in your daily life

Love one another.  Be tender hearted. Be connected to the present of the "other".   Embrace the margins. 

Noah McKeown

Noah is a drummer and percussionist with many years of experience teaching, performing live, and recording in the studio. In high school, Noah fell in love with music and decided to study classical music at Vanguard University. After college, Noah moved to Los Angeles and continued to stay busy working professionally in a variety of musical settings outside of the university environment. Apart from working as a percussionist, Noah enjoys surfing, craft beverages of all sorts, hockey, and spending time with his cute golden retriever.