Welcome to Know Justice, Know Peace: A Jesuit Antiracism Retreat as we begin our second week together. My name is Kevin Kuehl, and I’m with The Jesuit Post. Our theme for Day 4 is responding to Christ’s Call to Solidarity. But first, let’s begin by remembering that we are in God’s holy presence:
Deliver us, O Lord God, from the evil of racism, from our attitudes and actions that allow racism to continue to exist because too many times we say nothing and do nothing to stop it. Deliver us from our attitudes of superiority and privilege that divide us, your children, from one another. In your mercy deliver us from racism so that our communities can be renewed with a new awareness and with deep respect for every human person, so the healing bonds of solidarity may grow and your beloved Kingdom may flourish in our hearts and in this land. Amen.
Our journey this week is one of downward mobility: accepting that dismantling racism will require that we lower ourselves and empty ourselves to stand in solidarity with those on the margins. This is the path that Jesus Christ opens for us through his incarnation– his free choice to dwell among us in all of our suffering, even to the point of accepting death on the cross. Following Christ means having the same attitude as Him. According to St. Paul, this means that we “Humbly regard others as more important than ourselves, each looking out not for his or her own interests, but also for those of others.”1
In the fight for racial justice, responding to Christ’s call and conforming to his life means actively confronting and evaluating my own privilege; it means challenging and unlearning racist attitudes and behaviors in myself in order to be a truly compassionate ally with those marginalized by the sin of racism. This is the first step to letting go of my ego and starting down the path of solidarity.
Fr. Bryan Massingale defines solidarity as “a constant effort to build a human community where every social group participates equitably in social life and contributes its genius for the good of all.” Constant effort. Remember there won’t be a eureka moment where I can declare myself officially in solidarity. And everyone participates. It is with good reason that the firm unity of the clenched fist has been a universal symbol for solidarity. It’s about coming together because we’re better and more powerful when we act together as one body.
So, where do you stand? That’s the question Jesus asks you today. There can be a temptation to believe that I am already standing under the banner of solidarity, that I am already anti-racist; however, sometimes efforts towards solidarity can be all about ME, the person with privilege, rather than the marginalized person or people. If you look around, are you really standing on the margins? I may post a sympathetic picture on Instagram, but if that is the end of my commitment, are my actions really aimed at breaking away from the systems of power that oppress? I might condemn racism publicly, but will I defend my stance when challenged personally? Will I stick around if the going gets tough? Remember: St. Ignatius tells us that love is shown more in deeds than in words.
I think it’s helpful to think about 4 characteristics of genuine solidarity:
- True solidarity seeks no recognition. It’s not about being noticed or respected.
- Real solidarity means active listening. It’s not about you! Instead, you are called to opt for listening and following the lead of marginalized people.
- True solidarity involves real risk (it’s not just #activism or merely symbolic). It means that you, as an ally, take on the struggle as your own even if it scares you, affects your reputation, or puts you in danger
- Genuine solidarity requires conversion–change at a deeper level. When this happens, you will be willing to take action and make sacrifices that transfer the benefits of privilege that you enjoy to those who lack it.
The link between these four characteristics of a true solidarity is humility, rejecting the allure of security, honor, and approval–rejecting the sin of pride–in favor of real justice and conversion. As Christians, striving to live in solidarity reminds us that we are called to imitate the humble strength of Jesus Christ who emptied himself. St. Ignatius tells us that we should, in fact, desire poverty, dishonor, and even to be a fool for God, in the same way that Christ himself took on the humiliation and suffering of the oppressed. As Jesuit Fr. Dean Brackley says so insightfully, “solidarity is the social meaning of humility” because “it leads to sharing the obscurity, misunderstanding, and contempt experienced by the poor.” St. John Paul II makes clear that the Christian virtue of solidarity means setting aside the ego and putting some skin in the game. He says, “[Solidarity] is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all.”
If all of this sounds too hard, don’t despair. No one is perfect and growing in our efforts to be antiracist is a lifelong process of building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalized individuals and/or groups.
- So where do stand?
- With those who are held in contempt because of the color of their skin?
- With those who are suffering under racial oppression and violence?
- With those who are rejected by the powerful and privileged?
As you reflect on these questions, consider praying with:
- Philippians 2:1-11
- The Two Standards Meditation from the Spiritual Exercises (O’Brien, Day 4).
- Or you might consider returning to the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
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