Why did you march? You’re not even American.
The question, purely inquisitive, came from a loved one when the Harrisburg Immigrant Solidarity March – one of several that have been taking place across US and in other countries – came up in conversation.
It’s true: I am not American. I am what US governmental offices would consider a nonresident alien. What credibility do I have to be taking a stance on a discussion involving the national security of a country that I have no claim to, and which does not claim me as its own?
Nor am I an immigrant: US offices would consider me a nonimmigrant alien. I have been consistently reminded of this fact the eight times I encountered border control in the past 12 months. Nor am I a Muslim: just a Christian in a Muslim majority country excluded from the recent Executive Order temporarily banning immigration from seven Muslim majority countries – which was suspended by a Washington state federal judge on Friday.
Not falling into any immediate category of stakeholders in the immigration ban, what sort of credibility did I have to march in opposition of the Order, which denies entry to Syrian refugees, and breaches laws on an international scale; or the unsubstantiated tweets and unverified narratives justifying such an Order? In fact, what sort of credibility do I have to be writing this piece you are reading?
The answer to the aforementioned question is now clear to me: one does not have to be a stakeholder in order to stand for something, nor does one have to tick off particular national, religious or racial checkboxes in order to support individuals or groups who are experiencing discrimination, threats to safety, uncertainty and fear, due to their meeting those requirements.
The Oxford Dictionary defines solidarity as “unity….of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group.”
It is solitary for Muslim immigrants to be fighting for their own cause. It is solidarity when those who are not Muslim, or immigrant, stand with Muslims, immigrants and those who are both, on the basis that we share a common humanity, and the common pursuit of justice – no matter how elusive justice truly is in reality.
If anything, your different background is significant, and precisely why your presence at an Immigrant Solidarity March makes it one of solidarity.
Junmey Wang is a Politics major at Messiah College. She is a member of the Center for Public Humanities Student Fellows program.