It's a concept which has very negative consequences. If solidarity is something that is offered to those who are "othered" in society, then I as a member of the mainstream can extend it to the "other" group, but they by definition cannot extend it to me (since I am not myself "othered"). So liberal solidarity is not mutual or reciprocal - it does not lead to a positive sense of fellow feeling.
Instead, the group being offered the solidarity is reinforced in its belief that it is suffering oppression and hardship from the very people offering the solidarity. That leads to resentment, anger and a sense of grievance. The solidarity-givers then have to adopt an attitude of repentance and seek redemption - they lose moral status relative to the group they want to be in solidarity with. And that then leads to a growing sense of contempt from the "other" group toward the liberal solidarity-givers who now stand in a morally inferior position to them.
That all sounds very abstract, I know, but it has real life consequences. Let me give just a small example. At Oberlin College in America a white student in a soccer team wrote to an Hispanic teammate letting him know that if he (she?) didn't want to go to a talk organised for Latino Heritage month, the team would like him (her?) to play:
Hey that talk looks pretty great, but on the off chance you aren’t going or would rather play futbol instead the club team wants to go!!
Harmless, right? Well, the Hispanic player decided that this was, in fact, an act of "microagression" from his white teammate. It was an act of aggression, first, because the white player used a Spanish word "futbol" which constitutes an act of cultural appropriation:
Who said it was ok for you to say futbol? It’s Latino Heritage Month, your telling people not to come to the talk, but want to use our language? Trick NO! White students appropriating the Spanish language, dropping it in when convenient, never ok.
And he (she?) followed up with this:
I’m not playing intramural once again this semester because you and your cis-dude, non passing the ball, stealing the ball from beginners, spanish-mocking, white cohort has ruined it.
And here's the contempt for liberal solidarity-givers:
And then I get this long ass email (warning it gets full of white guilt and really boring white liberal sh**)
In his email the white soccer player complains that he can't help being white and male:
Clearly you only see me at face value and yes I’m white and male, what do you want me to do about that?
The Hispanic player has a clear answer to the "what do you want me to do" question and it has little to do with solidarity. The Hispanic player's answer is: "Leave the team".
The white player then pleads that although he is of white ancestry he has been virtually raised by a second, Hispanic family. Does this get him a pass? Does this mean that he can now enjoy solidarity and fraternity? You probably know the answer. He is chided by the Hispanic player thusly:
We need to talk about tokenizing brown friends/family and taking them in to identify with people of color (or avoiding accountability for being racist).
So the white player then tries to seek redemption by confessing his sins. I've shortened it, but you'll get the idea:
Growing up as a white male in this society, I have benefited countless times from these advantages that I did not and do not deserve, but growing up I was generally not even aware that I was gaining an advantage - it was the only reality I knew. This is a question I have truly struggled with through my life - I don’t deserve these advantages, but they exist for me, I never sought them out, I didn’t want them and can't give them away, what am I supposed to do? How can I feel like any of my efforts are the product of my own effort and not simply my unequal social status? This made me very depressed for a time.
Solidarity is not supposed to make you depressed. It's not supposed to make you doubt the worth of contributing to society. It's supposed to give you a supportive sense of fellow-feeling.
And what was the response of the Hispanic student to the stupendous act of contrition from the white student? It was to the point. The best way the white student can help out is to get lost:
did you once address how you take up too much space and make this space unsafe? Did you once consider leaving this space?
So what is the lesson to be learnt? Simply this: it is no use whinging about the kind of attitudes expressed by the Hispanic footballer if we at the same time continue to support the concept of solidarity which breeds such attitudes. One thing leads logically to another.
Solidarity cannot be based on gestures of support for the most othered group in society. That is not solidarity, it is not fraternity. We need to recognise wherever and whenever this mistake is made and to patiently but firmly criticise it.