Three signs of soft solidarity at the dawn of the last Columbus Day

Just in time for Monday’s federal holiday, Seattle decided to celebrate something else, joining Minneapolis at big US cities to get this right by re-naming the holiday “Coast Salish Day” and Indigenous People’s Day, respectively. Are we more surprised by cities making this move or that more haven’t yet? How is this still a thing?

After all, aside from the catastrophic results of contact for 10’s of millions of natives, didn’t Colon basically start a trend of “discovering” things for white people? If you need another funny video to keep you engaged – check out College Humor’s take on “Columbusing.”

If you are moved to make steps towards healing our land and people, you might be moving toward solidarity. Particularly for white liberals – especially Evangelical Christians – solidarity is becoming more normative, at least in theory. It takes a lot of work to move solidarity from your heart or head and allow God to use it for transformation. It’s cheaper and easier to have a “soft solidarity,” one that makes you feel good/aware/informed but doesn’t transform yet. I offer three warning signs of soft solidarity, and some suggestions for how to allow the Spirit to beef it up to a solidarity that both parties experience.

When solidarity doesn’t lead to connection, it’s probably soft. When we pray at the Circle of Hope sunday Meetings, we are trying to help people make connections and follow up. Prayer is a powerful tool to connect with God, one another, and people far away as well as change hearts. Praying for Pakistani victims of drone warfare is good. Telling the story about the prayer, learning, and even trying to find Pakistani people in your neighborhood or online to make a relationship with is even better.

When solidarity doesn’t lead you to uncomfortable situations among people who don’t get it yet, it’s probably too soft. As a non-native of this land as well as not having African ancestors within the past few 1,000 years, learning from my native and black friends, teachers, musicians, and authors has been healing for me. It’s a privilege for me to be able to talk about race, land rights, colonialism, or restitution with my friends of color. It’s a responsibility to continue these conversations with white people who haven’t listened to non-white voices yet. For those of us who “cross over,” we have to do more than represent the exotic or be a proxy for oppressed voices. We don’t need to build bridges, we need to help put people in direct contact and show them how the bridge doesn’t even exist – we are way closer to a connection than they might think.

When solidarity is an accessory to your narcissism, it’s definitely too soft. For progressives, particularly millennials, you have been conditioned to do this already, so un-learning is going to take some work. Buying a keffiyeh doesn’t make you down with the Palestinian cause. Waxing intellectual, playing authentic delta blues on guitar, blasting Immortal Technique, or borrowing cultural elements from other peoples does not do anything for anyone else – unless it’s part of something bigger.

If you are still wondering about whether changing the name makes a difference – of the holiday or the football team, consider these thoughtful anecdotes from native activists. You may feel more sympathy for the Italian Americans who may feel slighted that Columbus is getting bumped, for Columbus himself as a hero and great Christian, or for the system itself for not being able to be just or accommodating to everyone.

In the video you see Migizi Pensoneau of The 1491s wearing the infamous Caucasians t-shirt, mocking the Cleveland Indians logo -designed by Brian Kirby but made famous by DJ NDN of A Tribe Called Red. Migizi wrote a heartfelt piece going behind the scenes of the Daily Show shoot for the Missoula Independent here. I think this should be the last Columbus Day anyone celebrates because the holiday reinforces & celebrates lies and myths that support a system of genocidal thievery against my friends & relatives. Changing the name is a step towards making connections that need to be made. I sense Jesus moving us into SOLIDarity, where mutual connection, care, and support transforms everyone involved and faces off with the Powers That Be. The more connections you make, the more sense it will make that your friends & relatives rub off some cultural elements/values/hopes on you.