U.N.I.T.Y. – Here We Go, Gotta Let Them Know

By Lisa Pryor

Hey everyone!

Thanks for joining us for more interesting conversations. If you haven’t already read Nikki’s blog post, we are talking about solidarity in September. Check it out here!

As I was reading her post, I couldn’t help but wonder: Why do some individuals not see the value in solidarity? And what makes them ultimately choose to opt out of? I’m not saying it’s a conscious decision, but let’s be real, many people choose not to engage (or so it seems).

So, I was wondering what would help people set themselves up to be included in solidarity?

What is solidarity, anyway? The definition of solidarity is unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group.

Unity, agreement, feelings, action, mutual support.

No wonder we struggle. I’m not sure if you have noticed, but I have seen plenty of ways in which we divide ourselves. It’s no wonder we can’t come to an agreement, let alone solidarity. Think about it, Queen Latifah wrote “U.N.I.T.Y.” in 1993 and women are just now getting some respect in the genre of hip-hop. Check out the documentary Ladies First: A Story of Women in Hip-Hop; you’ll like it. It’s dope.

If individuals with the common interest of music can’t come to mutual support within their group just because of a gender difference, how are we going to do the same when we span such different thought processes across a vast variety of ways of being?

I think this is where a lot of people probably find themselves. When in doubt, “double down and look out for me and mine.” I am not at all dismissing or judging this frame of mind. However, it does prove to not be as effective as we would hope it could be. Actually, history has proven that this mindset is not helpful at all. We usually see more differences than similarities. It may be human nature at this point—I’m sure someone has done a ton of research on this topic—but it’s not helpful.

I remember in my last job being told by a colleague that there was a complaint that I was not “black enough” to do my DEI job. Refer back to my first blog article to find out why this was infuriating then and is amusing now. A black family made the complaint. For me, this is where intersectionality comes into play. If you aren’t familiar with the term, Kimberlé Crenshaw (yes, Critical Race Theory Kimberlé Crenshaw) coined the term in the last 1980s as a way of explaining how our identities compound to create our own unique shared experiences. There are clearly a lot of things that the family who complained about me didn’t know because they could only see how I present outwardly. They clearly couldn’t see how I could stand in solidarity with them if I wasn’t “black enough.” Sounds familiar, huh?[*]

Anyway, history repeats itself.

I used to have the privilege of chaperoning an 8th grade trip to Washington, DC. Some people may cringe at the thought of being in the nation’s capital with sixty 13 and 14 year olds, but I loved every minute—almost—of the trip. There is so much to do and see in DC. One of my favorite stops was the Holocaust Museum. Don’t get me wrong, I cried every time I walked through it and probably still would today. But what does this have to do with solidarity? Well, there is a quote on the wall right before you walk out of the exhibit. This quote reminds me, more than anything, of solidarity. It says:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

—Martin Niemöller

Niemöller was a German pastor and he talked about his early complicity in Nazism, simply by being inactive and indifferent. He stated that he said nothing because in the beginning, the Nazis were targeting people whom he did not identify or agree with.

I find that to be extremely interesting and relevant. This quote actually leaves out other groups of people who were targeted by the Nazis. Niemöller mentioned those groups in different iterations of this quote. If you are unfamiliar with all the groups, please go do some research. In my mind, it’s tremendously sad, yet so familiar. It looks a lot like what we see here in the United States—right now. So much of how people engage with politics centers on the premise of this quote. It’s not me and I don’t agree with those people – I will not speak out. What happens when they come for you?

So, how do we practice solidarity? Because for me, it is a practice, not a light switch. I think the first step is getting clear on your why. Why would you practice solidarity? Why wouldn’t you? Take a few minutes and literally write down answers to these two questions. No one will read it but you, so be specific.

I will say that for me, I have come into being in solidarity with others by choice. I grew up believing I should not stand in solidarity with so many, including myself, that now I have to be extremely aware of where certain messages came/come from. I notice that there have been many other messengers who have come along to guide me in this, among other things. For example, in the sauna the other day, a stranger struck up a conversation with me. I initially thought we would engage in pretty regular banter, but then something instructed me to listen more than I talked. We were extremely different, so it seemed, yet I was appreciative of the time spent—I know it was a significant amount of time because I was dripping with sweat when I left—engaging in some DEEP conversation. You should have seen the other person’s face that came in and heard the tail end of our conversation, lol.

My takeaway from that conversation was a reminder of the importance to see the beauty in not only the light but also in the darkness. To be intrigued by the brightness and the shadows. To not see one as good and the other as bad or right and wrong. They need each other to have any relevance at all. If you diminish one, you diminish them both.

Maybe this is why solidarity is so important.

When you diminish the other, you diminish yourself. When you treat the other with dignity and respect, you treat yourself with dignity and respect. What if we loved ourselves and each other from infinity to infinity?

U.N.I.T.Y.

[*] *BTW, this is a super basic way to explain intersectionality, which I’m sure we will go deeper in the future.