Originally posted on Outside the Bubble, a blog written by Jamie Lippman, former AJWS World Partners Fellow in India.
Does it matter that I was not a “member” of the communities I was working with in India? I just can’t frame it that way. I believe that identity based on nationality, ethnicity, neighborhood, or pretty much anything, often creates unnecessary separation. When in reality, everybody has the capacity to relate to anyone. Pain feels the same; love feels the same no matter who you are or where you live. Of course it’s not just about relatability; it does make sense to work with groups you know and understand. But what if you can connect to others outside your circle through the shared traits of existing on this planet as an individual with emotions? To be clear, the community development work I’m talking about is NOT going to a foreign country and imposing American solutions (ehem, Peace Corps philosophy. No offense). I’m talking about working with a local organization, learning from those on the ground, and responding to their requested needs. No personal, preconceived notions of solutions or answers. No hero desires. And back to the broader points here, I truly believe that regardless of legal or political or community boundaries, each person is worthy of equal respect and concern. That, as Anthony Appiah, a philosopher from Ghana wrote, “No local loyalties can justify forgetting that each human being has responsibilities to each other.” And I feel that obligation deeply. My far-reaching rights as a citizen of the richest and most powerful country in the world yield responsibilities as a global citizen that go far beyond our boundaries. I’m not saying community identification is a bad thing – it’s a human inclination to surround oneself with the familiar and the shared. I am saying, however, that community does not have to be defined by geography. Community can come to mean something that doesn’t blind us from the commonalities of being human.