Where Do We Stand? Expanding Beyond Allyship Into Solidarity
~by Patricia Woehrlen, in collaboration with Joyce Herman and David Inglis
A recent Pachamama Alliance Seeds of Hope program began to explore “What does it mean to be an ally?” As we deepen our understanding of the need to confront forces of hatred, racism, antisemitism, anti-LGBTQ, in the public sphere, we are called to move beyond simple Allyship, where we stand up for a marginalized or targeted person, to deeper Solidarity, where we see how our “collective well-being is interwoven.”
Philosopher Hannah Arendt defined the public sphere in her book The Human Condition, as the place where a person’s words and deeds appear before others and bring about change in the ways humans live in community. “Of all the activities necessary and present in human communities, only two were deemed to be political and to constitute what Aristotle called the bios politikos, namely action (praxis) and speech (lexis) out of which rises the realm of human affairs… The stature of the Homeric Achilles can be understood only if one sees him as ‘the doer of great deeds and the speaker of great words.’” In his book, The Quiet Before: On the Unexpected Origins of Radical Ideas, Gal Beckerman highlighted Arendt’s concept of the public sphere as a table, around which all humanity is sitting. At this table, words and deeds stand for ideals, values, and principles and create the world we live in.
This country now faces a multi-pronged barrage of hate-filled rhetoric designed to divide people from one another, to dismantle social and legal safety nets, and to claim the public sphere for hatred, racism, misogyny, anti-LGBTQ, and antisemitism. Thus, the question of how we can come together in our common, sacred, and vulnerable humanity is ever more compelling. In standing up for and standing with allies, we have the opportunity to declare our ideals, values, and principles before the world. Of course, spreading hatred, racism, antisemitism, etc., also provides the same opportunity. In other words, at the table of the public sphere, some people can pass the potatoes; some can be found throwing the peas.
The question remains, what is in the way of people becoming allies and what prevents movement beyond allyship to solidarity? Perhaps it is in what we see and hear and how we are seen and heard. To stand shoulder to shoulder means that we must not only support the laws and choices that provide the basis for protection of marginalized and targeted groups; but we must also look deep within ourselves and within our groups. And we must have the courage to comprehend the threats, pain, history, and fears that the marginalized and targeted brothers and sisters carry.
One way to declare our values, ideals, and principles is to stand in allyship and solidarity with the marginalized and targeted and to point out, loudly and clearly, those groups that are spreading hatred and division. Recently, Faithful America, a national Christian organization countering the radical White Nationalist/White Supremacist agenda, helped keep the “ReAwaken America Tour” out of Rochester. This White Nationalist/White Supremacist agenda oppresses anyone who is not a white, evangelical Christian, authoritarian, straight, cisgendered male or believer in a repressive patriarchy. Currently, Faithful America is urging people to call on major theater groups to stop showing Greg Locke’s film “Come Out in Jesus Name,” which is opening at major theater chains March 13. According to Faithful America, “Locke claims his film will help people cast out the ‘demons’ that supposedly cause homosexuality, feminism, Catholicism, and anything else inconsistent with his extreme far-right political views.”
On February 16, 2023, the Rochester area community was offered another example of effective allyship and solidarity when the Monroe County Bar Association, The Levine Center to End Hate, the Konar Center for Violence and Jewish Studies sponsored a dialogue at Nazareth College between two distinguished professors: Dr. Terrence L. Johnson, Professor of African American Religious Studies at Harvard Divinity School, and Dr. Jacques Berlinerblau, professor of history of Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University. The two men jointly teach a class on Black/Jewish Relations, and they have written a book: Blacks and Jews in America, An Invitation To Dialogue. They offered observations that went beyond simplistic pleas to “love one another.” The dialogue and book go further by setting forth the premise that allyship comes in many forms and at many levels, again moving to solidarity—so that everyone can see the concerns of the marginalized and targeted as their concerns.
Another opportunity to begin to expand our allyship into solidarity is scheduled for March 12, 2023, at 5:00 pm, when journalist and author Katherine Stewart, will discuss “Meeting the Threat of Religious Nationalism.” including threats to democracy such as the January 6, 2021 attack on the capitol. The talk will take place at the Third Presbyterian Church in Rochester. Prior registration is required.
For groups that have traditionally been under attack and who are being targeted now — Blacks, Jews, LGBTQ+ people, Muslims, immigrants, people with disabilities—these are especially frightening times, and these times require action. At this fragile point in time, the privileged and the marginalized must not only protest and protect, but also work together to dismantle the systems and structures that perpetuate inequality and oppression. If we can identify our common realm of interest and see our interconnectedness with others and with nature, then we have a powerful foundation for acting as allies and standing in solidarity.
The Pachamama Alliance mission statement calls us to bring forward a human presence on this earth that is environmentally sustainable, socially just, and spiritually fulfilling. Jimmy Carter was recently quoted: "Getting along with one another and treating each other as equals is one of the hardest things to do on earth." The big question we must ask ourselves is, “what is ours to do?’ While it is not enough to espouse “love,” love is still the foundation of all our action. Love is how we offer emotional and moral support. Love is how we meet and conquer hate. Love is how we move from mere words to words and action and thus to change. Love is how we stand before the world and declare that we are allies to and we stand in solidarity with the targeted and marginalized communities.