“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
Through the passage of months, weeks, days and oftentimes moments, we have reached the other side of 2018. Opposition, conflict, and incivility became constant and familiar in many of our day-to-day interactions, leaving us divided and fatigued. Racial, ethnic, gender, and political party polarization made frequent news and social media headlines, and many of us withdrew into fearful isolation. Whether we entered the new year accompanied by hopes, fears, dreams, trepidation, courage, worry, welcome, angst, silence, willful blindness, or faith, 2019 has made its debut and there is no turning back.
As simple evidence of the polarizing and baneful year we’ve had, two popular dictionaries (using two different methods) announced their 2018 words of the year. Merriam Webster’s 2018 word of the year was “justice” – noting that justice has been on the minds of many in 2018. Justice is a word with varied meanings ranging from “the technical to legal, to the lofty and philosophical.” The 2018 word of the year for the Oxford Dictionary, on the other hand was “toxic,” an adjective defined as “poisonous or relating to or caused by poison.” These are popular words lived out in various ways during 2018, yet, we mustn’t be defined or restricted by them or the polarity they reveal.
My brief recap of 2018 sentiments suggests that somewhere along the way some of us have lost ourselves, lost control of our emotions, of our rationality, and yet we are still here. There are some of us who, in the midst of what feels like social and racial tyranny, are on a quest – albeit elusive – for justice, peace and liberation. With each passing day we have a choice in how we will live out our lives. For some of us, that choice is burdened by social and economic constraints often unacknowledged by others. Neither silence, blindness, nor lack of acknowledgement of an issue makes it less real in our lives. Nor does it mean that those who refuse to acknowledge or who silence issues of racism, for example, are unimplicated or removed from its burden and injury because they have yet to realize their position as instrumental to its maintenance.
In interpreting Dr. Watson’s wisdom of solidarity in her profound statement, I believe this is what she is telling us. That we are a collective of people in different spheres, cultures, experiences, and perspectives, all attempting – in our own ways – to navigate life. When one’s foot is on my neck, they too are restrained by maintaining that position while simultaneously eroding their humanity. When one rises in the name of justice and peace, I too rise with them. Our common humanity both unites us in our struggles and in our achievements.
Embracing our common humanity requires that we stand in an unwavering thirst for liberation. With fear and discomfort as our shadows and escorted by whispers of doubt ruminating in our minds, let us march into 2019 with a fierce courage that moves us to live our best, liberated lives in solidarity with our common humanity.
Cherie Bridges Patrick, MSSW, LISW-S, PhD Candidate
*Lilla Watson is an Indigenous Australian or Murri visual artist, activist and academic working in the field of Women's issues and Aboriginal epistemology. This quote speaks to the profound wisdom found in its rich meaning and made available to us by Dr. Watson. I extend my deepest gratitude for the wisdom of Dr. Watson, for those that traveled with her, and for those that came before her.