subject line from Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
I have been silent. In part, this has been due to fear of saying the wrong thing, of thinking if I stay silent, if I stay small, I cannot get into trouble.
SIlence does not make the wrongs right, though.
Instead, it makes me complict in the acts of violence, because it means I do not bear witness, I do not use my privilege as someone who passes through life perceived as a heterosexual white woman to speak truth about injustice, to speak truth into the silence.
My silence, your silence, our silence creates an atmosphere where no one can breathe, where we glare at one another in mistrust, in hate, in fear.
A friend of mine posted on Facebook yesterday something along the lines of, “I could be the next hashtag;” another wrote about times being in the same situation where others have now found themselves shot to death.
And it’s been a year and a half since I responded to the non-indictment of Darren Wilson, and nothing has changed. Nothing has fucking changed. And, if I’m really honest, it’s not just in a year and a half.
Less than a week ago, we were “celebrating” freedom in the United States, freedom from the tyranny of one particular system, not recognizing that we have created another system which has perpetuated violence and hate and division. It is a ghost legacy that haunts the rivers and the land. It is the bone structure on which the skin and make-up of “the American Dream” have been placed.
Yes, there is opportunity, yet I do not believe it is fully available to all. What is available and how far it will take you depends on your race, your class, your sexuality, your (dis)ability status, your sobriety status, your legal status (both in terms of legal issues and immigration status).
We must be able to criticize the way things are so that we can make them better. We need spaces where real dialgoue can occur; right now, everything is about being right, rather than listening. This is a different kind of silence, where I wan tto learn what I can – not because it is expected or because I don’t want to speak the wrong words. Rather, it is about recognizing the value in others’ words.
And there are fantastic resources being posted on social media (I know some pretty awesome people already doing this work regularly). Here are a few:
- Waking Up White: A Resource for White People
- A Letter to My Son if Police Actions Leave You Fatherless
- Canaries in the Coal Mine (quote from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor)
- Brick by Brick, You Must Obliterate the System
- Curriculum for White Americans to Educate Themselves on Race and Racism
Listen. Keep your heart open. Do not look away from the reality of others’ experiences in this world. I am working on doing the same. Our silence to the ways the systems (and the ways be implicitly and explicitly participate in those systems) humanizes and privileges some people and not others does not help us move forward toward freedom.