“If you don’t feel safe alone, I will ride with you.”
These words have so much depth.
When an armed man with unidentified ties to radical Islam took control of a Sydney café for over 16 hours on Monday, a social media campaign under the hashtag #IllRideWithYou started rapidly trending on Twitter. Australians started the hashtag to stand in solidarity with Muslims during the immediate tension following the siege. In a matter of hours, the hashtag became an international movement creating over 480,000 tweets.
The hashtag was inspired when one user tweeted the story of a young Muslim woman who removed her hijab (traditional Islamic head scarf) while riding public transportation because she feared that identifying herself as a Muslim would put her in danger of misdirected violence toward innocent Muslim citizens in the aftermath of another extremist fueled act. The tweet continued to describe another young woman who “ran after her at the train station [and said] ‘put it back on. I’ll walk with u [sic]..’”
This original tweet inspired Tessa Kum, an Australian TV content editor, to reply with a message that sparked a movement. From her handle @sirtessa, Kum tweeted,
“If you reg take #373 bus b/w Cogee/Martin Pl, wear religious attire, & don't feel safe alone: I'll ride with you. @ me for schedule.”
This exchange was more than just clicktivism. It was embodied solidarity. In this case, the privileged majority did not simply express support for the threatened minority. Rather, individuals gave their personal bodies to ride with their Muslim brothers and sisters. In this instance it was not people just retweeting messages of support, it was people saying, “My body will stand with your body side by side, in the face of evil, because in Christ, Allah and the Divine Spirit, we are one.”
What will it take for our larger society to not just affirm those on the margins but to physically walk with them?
Our society continues to replicate systems of interaction where those on the margins walk in fear because of their religion, race, or gender. These fears are real. Young men of color walk in fear of how an overmilitarized police force may confront them with biased suspicion. Women of all ages walk in fear of constant sexual objectification and threats from the unspoken but omnipresent culture of rape. Our Muslim brothers and sisters walk with fear that every time an act of extremist violence erupts that they will be targets of redirected revengeful anger.
A society where people are afraid to use public transportation because of his or her religion or race or gender is not so different than a society where the fear of lynch mobs lurked in the hearts of people of color. It is not so different than a time where a man was crucified for being “the King of the Jews.”
Although it is easy to breeze through the news of yet another social media trend, in a time of Advent the #IllRideWithYou campaign reminds us of the true power of Emmanuel. Just as God is with us, we must have the heightened compassion necessary to not only support each other but ride with one another in the Divine Spirit.
As Lilla Watson said, “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting our time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
Let us pray that in a society that perpetuates fear for those on the margins that we can look for the divinity within each of us to find a way to ride together.
Kaeley McEvoy is Campaigns Assistant for Sojourners.