Dec 6, 2011

privilege and accompaniment

I have been reviewing again the very little that is posted online by organizations about how the international accompaniment work they do uses privilege. One of my favorites is a 2008 post by Liza Smith, who works with FOR.

The full post is here and well worth reading, but here is a snippet:

… Our first day in Colombia we began a conversation about the reality of international solidarity work. A number of people in the circle had (and continue to have) serious concerns about the nature of this work — why is that so many white, upper-middle class activists turn towards the romanticized struggles of the third world to “help” when we have our own atrocious situations to deal with at home? How can we justify solidarity work in Colombia when we have a prison population of African American men that equals the number of un-free African American men at the height of slavery? How can we go to a far away place to accompany threatened human rights leaders when 120 veterans commit suicide every week in the United States? How can we think about inequality elsewhere when young people in our own country have to offer themselves as cannon fodder in Iraq in order to get money for college? These issues merit our attention, hard work and passion.

Theoretically, we all know that our struggles to overcome oppression are deeply interconnected and that we must learn from one another’s struggles to make each stronger. This delegation felt like bringing theory to practice. We were not approaching Colombia as the problem and arriving as gringos with the helping hand. We were exchanging experiences of problems that are fundamentally linked and which manifest differently in our different contexts. … I can hardly claim that our delegation resolved any of the questions about international solidarity and I know I’m not off the hook as a white activist doing solidarity work with Colombia. But we did attempt to explore a different kind of model of transnational community building that deconstructs a traditional set up which assumes solidarity goes in one direction. Because our solidarity work there and here is to support each other in our collective development as activists, leaders and human beings. Because our work here and there is to build a stronger global movement to end war …”

Read the whole thing here.

Liza is also a great singer songwriter, check her out singing at the vigil to close the SOA in the video below.

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