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Study Hall: Solidarity Isn’t Conditional

I’ve been reading this newsletter from the start and even supported Black Lives Matter, but this pro-Palestine stance has really turned me off. It’s truly a disservice to those of us who have backed anti-racism work and the BLM movement.

Statements like these imply that solidarity is conditional. That we should only support movements when we can perceive some type of benefit for ourselves and withdraw our support when we feel slighted. Hostile statements from our readers reflect that—especially ones that start with “as a white person,” ones that emphasize that they will no longer support Black people, and ones that personally wish me and my team harm. That is not solidarity. That’s not even allyship. If you feel you have the privilege to step away from another’s suffering, you’re likely contributing to their pain. And if your support is conditional on your comfort, it won’t reach those most at risk. 

If you’ve said this or felt this in your heart, consider if you have used your whiteness (or other parts of your identity celebrated in dominant culture) to demand authority or respect, especially from more marginalized communities. What rewards do you expect to receive from your perceived practice of allyship? Do you “keep score” in other relationships in your life, whether from individuals, groups, or institutions? 

Supporting the movement for Black lives in the U.S. is the same movement as rallying for the safety and security of Jewish people worldwide, the liberation of Palestinian people, and the liberation of other oppressed communities across the globe. All of these people are innocent against the violent systems and structures that oppress us. 

Over the past 15 years, Israel has killed thousands of Palestinian people and justified it by claiming they were only attacking Hamas (Amnesty International). Now, following the attack by Hamas two weeks ago, this latest response doesn’t signal mere retaliation but an attempt at ethnic cleansing and annihilation. What other choice do we have but to demand the end of an occupation? To call for a ceasefire, an end to the blockade, and humanitarian aid? An end to a state that legally discriminates against and displaces people because of their ancestry and faith? To rally to fundamentally change the conditions that put innocent people—including Jewish, Muslim, and Christian people—at risk? And especially before our nation decides to put troops on the ground?

We must reimagine beyond the violent systems and structures our nations cling to, especially when we’re reeling from intergenerational grief, heartbreak, and pain. This is something that many marginalized communities know deeply. It’s why we show up for each other unequivocally and why we work hard to name that our enemies are not each other but the institutions that oppress us. It can be deeply uncomfortable if we believe our own lives are more valuable than those more marginalized or if we believe that our freedom comes at the expense of another. History has shown that that thinking only draws us backwards. And our future demands a new way forward. If that is not a stance you’re willing to take, this is not the place for you.

A side note: I want to acknowledge that before these past two weeks, we have not done enough to center Palestinian voices and issues, and haven’t yet had a Palestinian person contribute to conversations on this conflict (we’ve been working with a correspondent on the ground in Gaza, but progress has been understandably slowed with the ongoing attacks, so we’ve connected with other writers). I’m grateful for readers who have called us in here.

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