The language of solidarity

Lately I have noticed something I hadn’t seen before: on social media people using the expression “show solidarity” with a cause/group/individual, etc. Much has been written about allyship and allies and I don’t think I have anything to add to that, at least right now. This post about Tim Wise by Trudy at Gradient Lair illustrates many of the issues with allies and I highly recommend reading it. However, I am interested in this expression of “showing solidarity” and what it means symbolically.

“Showing solidarity” is a purely performative action taking place for an audience. “Put up a show”, “show business”, “the show must go on”, etc etc. None of the common colloquial uses of “show” implicate the one “showing” directly. This showing is presented merely as a performance for others to witness, there is no examination or consideration of one’s involvement in the situation one is showing solidarity for; no personal active unpacking of the political situation, just a “show” without any of the necessary work to fix the situation (a work that always, always should include an analysis and re-thinking of one’s position in the political situation in question). A purely performative moment, “show solidarity” and go on with our lives.

Personally, I very much prefer to either “express solidarity” or “stand in solidarity” (the latter, of course, in many cases metaphorically speaking, especially when used in writing). Both would imply a willingness to, as we say in Spanish, poner el cuerpo (literally, “to use one’s body”). There is no English language equivalent to this expression but this translation here comes close: “poner el cuerpo” means not just to talk, think, or desire, but to be really present and involved; to put the whole being in action, to be committed to a social cause, and to assume the bodily risks and demands of such commitment.” Both “expressing solidarity” and “standing in solidarity” imply an active thinking and voicing of one’s involvement. They evoke work, rather than performance. They are, to me, much more powerful ways to express myself politically: I stand here; I express this; these are the ideas I voice.

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