Some people are staying silent out of grief, out of a need for time and space to process their emotions.
Some people are staying silent out of fear—
fear of the police,
fear for the safety of their families,
fear of backlash,
fear of looking dumb,
fear of losing followers, friends, or employment,
fear of being accused of “jumping on the bandwagon,”
fear of saying something unintentionally naive or ignorant,
fear of confrontation,
fear of domestic abuse from someone who disagrees,
fear of their own hypocrisy.
Some people are staying silent out of ignorance—they want to be more informed before they speak out. Perhaps they want to learn more about the impact of systemic racism and white privilege before they form their opinions. Perhaps they feel ill-equipped to make a statement. Their silence is based on a lack of understanding which they wish to rectify. “I’ll speak out once I know more.”
Some people are staying silent out of a different type of ignorance—an unwillingness to see or engage with the situation. “It will all blow over soon.”
I suppose, there are, perhaps, some people so sheltered from the news, people who have a very curated, limited, and filtered view of the world, who genuinely are unaware of what is happening around them. It is hard for me to believe that anyone in the 21st century can live under a rock that big and pervasive, but I don’t deny the possibility.
Some people are staying silent because they have nothing nice to say, so are choosing to say nothing at all.
Some people are staying silent out of confusion—they are getting mixed messages from the leaders of the country, from the media, from the people around them and they don’t know who to believe or how to feel. Maybe their instincts, their intellect, their ingrained bias are all at war within them.
Some people are staying silent out of apathy—they’re tired of hearing about race, tired of the news and the media. Perhaps this apathy stems from a feeling of overwhelmed helplessness. Perhaps that has festered overtime and turned to an underlying bitterness and resentment.
What are ‘valid’ reasons for silence?
Which ones should be questioned, pushed back against?
Who is your silence serving?
What is your silence saying?
Note: This is not aimed at BIPOC. I believe they have the right to remain silent if they choose to, they have the right to protect their families, to be tired of speaking out, to be weary from the constant battle. Not that we don’t have those rights as well, but the potential danger to them is real in a way we, as white people, cannot fathom.
I started thinking about this because there are some celebrities and influencers who haven’t made any public comments on the murder of George Floyd or the #blacklivesmatter movement. I’m torn, because I don’t think people should be ‘bullied’ into how they use their platforms. I don’t think anyone should be posting things they don’t agree with just for likes or to bolster their image. However, it caused me to wonder why some people were choosing to not speak out. What might be the reasons they are choosing to stay silent? And are they worth it?
I don’t mean this as a judgement on anyone, however I do think we need to ask ourselves why we are doing what we are doing. Why are you staying silent? And if you are choosing to speak out, again, why?
Don’t speak for likes or views or selfish gain.
Don’t protest to feel in on the action.
Don’t post just to make yourself feel better.
What can you do?
Be okay with being uncomfortable. All of these things are going to cause some level of discomfort. Be okay with it. Press into it. Notice which things are making you uncomfortable and ask yourself why.
Educate yourself. Read books and articles. Watch YouTube videos. There are SO MANY resources out there. Just start Googling. Look up the things you do not understand. I can guarantee there are things out there that will address it.
Do NOT go asking your black friends to educate you. (read more about why in White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo or here)
Friends have reached out asking for specific titles. So far I have only read White Fragility, The Hate U Give, Citizen by Claudia Rankine, Between You and Me, and a good chunk of The New Jim Crow, all of which I recommend. White Fragility is a useful primer and is written by a white author, aimed at white readers. The Hate U Give is a very powerful, yet accessible novel. Citizen is a very insightful book of poetry. The New Jim Crow is packed with information about the history of race in America, specifically as it relates to the war on drugs and mass incarceration. Stamped (which I am a few chapters into) is currently available for free as an audiobook on Spotify.
I’m looking to read more and if you have suggestions, please let me know in the comments.
There is also a great list available here.
(If possible, purchase from local bookstores or small businesses!)
Support black creators, leaders, artists, bloggers, business owners!
Realize that you are not going to be perfect and this is not an easy fix. You will not read one book and everything will be better. The more you learn, the more you will understand how pervasive the issues are. But just because things feel too big or overwhelming does not give us an excuse to stop trying. Like with climate change. We need to keep finding reasons to hope and fight and change and grow. Because without hope, what is left?
If you are white and you go to a protest, do your research on how to behave. Do not incite violence. Do not make this about you. There are ways you can show solidarity and support (at protests or at home) without further endangering people’s lives.
Talk to your kids about race. Here’s a list of books about race for kids and teens, curated by Charis Books.
Donate. I’m sure there are lots of worthy organizations and funds but here are a few I know about:
– NAACP Legal Defense Fund
– Black Lives Matter
– The Minnesota Freedom Fund is now directing donors to:
– Black Visions Collective
– North Star Health Collective
– Reclaim the Block
Vote! Vote on the ballots, vote with your money, vote with your attention.