“Solidarity is a combination of both empathy and understanding”

written by Kurt Wagner | Santa Clara University – Class of 2012

Kurt Wagner (Santa Clara University '12) working up in the rafters of a house in New Orleans during SCU's January 2012 immersion experience.

I recently returned from an immersion trip to New Orleans, my second immersion experience but my first domestic trip. As the student leader for the trip, I spent a great deal of time preparing our group for what to expect, but the actual word ‘solidarity’ was never brought up in our pre-trip meetings. I think that many of the general concepts of solidarity were touched upon, but the word itself is hard to define and therefore hard to teach. I am a firm believer that ‘solidarity’ is one of those rare words that can take a unique shape depending on the individual experience.

For me, ‘solidarity’ with another community involves an individual’s commitment to stripping themselves bare of everything they think they know about another culture or community and opening their mind to a group of new individuals. ‘Solidarity’ is a combination of both empathy and understanding, but also requires shared experiences and beliefs. In order to truly connect with another culture, you must be willing to make yourself vulnerable and uncomfortable. Sometimes, this requires you to unveil your own prejudices or biases; to accept that you may be ignorant about what is truly happening outside of your own comfort zone. ‘Solidarity’ is the cumulative experience that leads to the creation of a meaningful connection with members of a community.

On both of my trips, I have found that solidarity is as prevalent among the group members as it is between the group and the outside community. It seems ironic that it takes a trip across the country to really open up with classmates who have been right under your nose the whole time.

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