Our Silence Speaks Volumes

Confession from a white woman: I never realized how silent I was being

Street full of Black Lives Matter protestors in Washington, DC.
Street full of Black Lives Matter protestors in Washington, DC.
Protestors march in Washington, D.C. on June 1, 2020. Screenshot from TIME live feed via Periscope

It’s the second week of protests over the killing of George Floyd and countless others who fell victim to police around the US. Variations of the Black Lives Matter hashtag continue to trend on Twitter, along with many related to the campaign for equality and police accountability.

This past week marks the first time I’d used the #blacklivesmatter hashtag myself. Heck, it’s the first time I determinedly spoke up publicly about the issue despite my being well aware that racial inequality exists. As a caucasian, I’ve never experienced the level of persecution my fellow black Americans have. Yet I’m not immune to understanding how important it is to stand alongside them and say it must stop.

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

— Martin Luther King Jr.

The words of Martin Luther King Jr. ring so true. Think about a time when a friend sided with you privately, yet remained neutral when offending parties were around. That silence? It hurts. And it sends the message to others that it’s okay to continue exhibiting bad behavior.

We need to surround ourselves with people who challenge not only our intellect but our actions. Or, in this case, our inactions.

On May 31st, I watched three young whites take to the front line. A large group of protestors had gone back and forth with the police. During a peaceful march, they’d get within 20 feet of law enforcement, only to be met with rubber bullets, flashbangs and tear gas. The young woman standing center left eased her way back up and stood her ground for a good twenty minutes before a few others joined. One minute after the 8 pm curfew hit, a third of the troops rushed them. The woman shouted out her phone number, asking those watching from afar to call someone and let them know she’s been arrested.

Three protestors stand in front of dozens of police during the Black Lives Matter protest.
Three protestors stand in front of dozens of police during the Black Lives Matter protest.
Protestors stand in front of dozens of police during the Black Lives Matter protest in Minneapolis on May 31, 2020. Screenshot from Brad Svenson’s live stream via Periscope

Some chatters during the live broadcast called this woman a Karen — claiming her to be acting entitled. I call her brave and honorable. She stood up for others, who remained more distant lest they take more tear gas. She continuously broke her silence, willing to go to jail.

I’ve found these recent events to be eye-opening on a very personal level. You see, I never realized how silent I was being.

It’s a shame that a small percentage of bad-doers cast shadow on the millions across the country marching for unity and equality. Because our voices — our loudest of voices — are needed to make the message clear: Black lives? They matter.

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