During training, we discussed “solidarity” a number of times. What does it mean to “stand in solidarity” with a people? How can you stand in solidarity when you don’t agree with everything that is said?
Well, I have spent my last two Sundays standing in solidarity with the Filipino migrant community here in HK. Solidarity has meant a number of things for me.
Last week, Beth (another mission intern), Grace (an intern from the Episcopal church) and I attended the third anniversary celebration of POWER, a migrant organization here in HK. The program consisted of cultural dances, messages from other organizations, and a keynote speaker. I was struck by the enthusiasm that I witnessed from the members of POWER and members of other organizations who attended the celebration. However, what stood out the most to me was the number of stares that Beth, Grace and I received from on-lookers. (The organizations meet in the center of the city every Sunday. The government closes off the street for a few blocks to allow for the gathering, so there are a number of tourists and HK residents passing by) Countless tourists, mostly White, stopped to watch the performance AFTER they noticed us sitting and watching. A large number of people took photos of us watching the group perform. I felt “on display” and weird knowing that I am in photos that people took on their “big trip to Hong Kong.”
This week, I witnessed expresses of solidarity from other sources. Four protesters were required to pay fines this week as punishment for being arrested last year. They were arrested after preventing an anti-migrant demonstration. They, native Hong Kongers, were expressing their support for migrants being able to file for right of abode. Tonight, one of those fined appeared before the migrant community to show continuing support. A member of Open Doors (an organization of employers supporting migrant rights) also spoke in support of migrants rights.
These two experiences showed me the importance of solidarity. As a White woman from the US, my presence sends a message. Although I am not comfortable with amount of privilege I come from, this privilege gives me power. My very presence gives the movement power because it shows other White people that they need to wake up and see the injustice around them.
We don’t always need to “do something.” Sometimes, we just need to stand up with the underprivileged and say “this isn’t right.”