Nancy HIghtower
Fringe by Nancy Hightower | flash fiction | #thesideshow
November 19, 2016
Darrin Doyle
Session 1 by Darrin Doyle | flash fiction | #thesideshow
November 20, 2016

Breaking the Legacy of Silence #23 Be Brave Enough to Speak Up, and Kind Enough to Listen | Kim D. Bailey

Kim D. Bailey,

There is a lot of noise out there right now. Our Social Media, news, texts, email, and phone lines are burning up with white hot rage, mourning, and utter shock at the events unfolding after the election of our latest president.

I don’t want to make this another political column piece. However, it is the responsible course of action. I would be remiss if I failed to convey an essential message about the power of our voice to affect social change if I chose ignore the politics at the center of the storm. It would make me an accomplice with those trying to shut people down. Continuing to invalidate those who are screaming, writing, or whispering—so desperately trying to be heard—will not bring about any unity, transformation, or healing.

This is not an attack on any one political party, race, faith, or gender. This is a call to action.

We need open and respectful communication. Our country has been heading toward this fissure for a long time. I would go so far as to say that we have never had the kind of collective and dynamic dialogue needed to address and heal the wounds inflicted upon women and minorities since our country’s inception.

Despite ourselves, and those who came before us, to speak out against discrimination, hate, and a broken socio-economic system which does not engender equality and success for all, we are failing on an epic level.

Yes, we have gained some ground in racial equality, women’s rights, religious freedoms, and LGBTQ inclusion. However, with the outcome of this election, it appears we are losing some of that ground at an alarming rate, and with potential to lose more. With the new PE and administration, the bloodletting appears in favor of regression, not advancement, on these important issues.

What we need now is effective communication.

Instead of anger, hate speech, finger-pointing—we need to express our fears, pain, and concern with one another in a thoughtful and respectful manner.

Of course, this is easier said than done since many of us are woefully inadequate when it comes to achieving any level of effective communication, and many don’t care to try.

Part of my mission has been to speak up against injustices, to tell stories about my truths, and to show how I have overcome the obstacles in my life to arrive at my most authentic state of being. It’s always a work in progress.

Change is part of perpetual growth. And such growth is necessary to mature and become insightful, not only regarding our own thoughts and feelings, but in understanding others.

Many of us are being told to calm down, shut up, and get over it. Some of us are reacting with anger to such entreaties, and ignoring our First Lady’s advice. Instead of going high when someone goes low with us, we get down in the mud with them and start slinging.

I’ve seen some horrific comments on all sides here in the last 10 days.

Trust me when I say, this will get us nowhere good fast. Vehement anger, name-calling, smartass remarks, off-color jokes—about anyone—won’t bring about healthy social change and interaction. It will kill us, crushing our souls, and make us bitter and ineffective.

Why would anyone listen to me, a woman who has been divorced more than once, who has not been as financially successful as so many others, and who has not always communicated with others in healthy ways?

You could say I’ve learned the hard way.

We must obtain some control over ourselves if we want to be heard, and so we can truly listen. There is no other way for this to work.

Yes, I am extremely uncomfortable with the PE, his cabinet choices, and with the prospect of four years with this administration leading our country. I have personal stakes here, like so many of us. LGBTQ rights are paramount for my family. As a woman, I want to know the leaders of this country have my and other women’s best interests in mind.

Many of us don’t believe they do.

However, if we want them and their followers to listen to us, we must brave enough to speak up while also listening to their concerns with some compassion.

My granny used to say, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” Returning vitriol with vitriol will get us nowhere. We are being called to go high, rise above it, and seek common ground.

Words carry enormous power. We often forget the impact we can make, negative or positive, by how we use our words and present them to others. It’s time to be self-aware, to realize our motives, and to choose our words in a manner that enlighten instead of tear one another down.

It’s important to remember our past to prevent the repetition of atrocities in our future. Human beings are so prone to forget their capacity to hurt and even destroy other human beings. Do you remember the Holocaust? How about WWII and the Japanese Internment Camps after the bombing of Pearl Harbor? And what about the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. implored his African American brothers and sisters to speak against the endemic racism so pervasive a century after the Abolition of Slavery and the Emancipation Proclamation. He validated their feelings of outrage at the unequal treatment they continued to receive. Rightly so. However, Dr. King also made it clear that violence was not the answer, and this tenant holds true throughout history. As angry, hurt, and marginalized as anyone feels right now—with good reason—violent verbal assaults, physical aggression on property and people, and ruinous rhetoric will not bring about the kind of change still necessary for any of us disenfranchised by bigotry and hate. Answering hate with hate only breeds more hate.

I’m not calling for bowed heads and mumbled voices, either.

Just as Dr. King did, I and many others implore our brothers and sisters to continue an open dialogue of education and enlightenment for those who do not validate our pain and outrage. Yes, we do need to get loud. We need to be consistent by protesting peacefully against injustice. We must hold forth values that apply to every human being as sacred and necessary for peaceful cohabitation of our diverse nation. There is no other way.

To accomplish this seemingly insurmountable task, we must realize our motives and act only on the purest of them. We must be brave enough to speak up for our rights, and kind enough to listen to those who believe our rights infringe upon their own. We must show them that equality does not mean their value decreases as humans.

That said, we will have people who oppose us no matter the eloquence of our words and actions. Some are constitutionally incapable and unwilling to accept the lives and presence of those they do not understand. Their motivation is not for mutual goodwill or peace, but comes primarily out of fear.

When we act out of fear, our words and actions will scorch everything in our path.

Fear is not the answer.

Here are some productive ways to protest the egregious imbalances of power and injustices meted out against other groups:

  • Write to your city, county, state and federal representatives, imploring them to maintain and pass laws that protect the rights of every human being
  • Call them. You can obtain the numbers of all public servants on any government site, at the city, state and federal levels.
  • Hold peaceful protests—no rioting or violence.
  • Conduct walkouts and sit-ins—again, no violence.
  • Boycott any businesses that support inequality, bigotry, or violence against others.
  • Sign petitions. This may seem pointless, but when enough people come together for a common cause, it can be a powerful message to those who want to continue to serve in public office.
  • Educate others about history, including what happens when hate and violence override compassion and respectful resolve. Offer to read books to elementary, middle, and high school students who know nothing about the Holocaust and the attempted genocide of an entire people by nationalist and fascist powers. Take someone to a Holocaust museum, or provide a documentary of that horrific chapter of humanity.
  • Teach your children that diversity is healthy, and they will spread that message via every word and action they have with other children.
  • Write an Op-Ed or column for a local paper, magazine, or online literary mag. Get your voice out there, using reason, compassion, passion.
  • Volunteer at local food banks, homeless shelters, churches, synagogues, mosques, schools, hospitals, and mental health facilities.
  • Use music or art to send the message of equality and love, and to denounce in a peaceful manner any hatred or bigotry.
  • Try to avoid creating your own echo chamber, where you only listen to the voices of those who agree with you. Allow people from all walks of life to tell you who they are, what they believe, their ideas and hopes for the future. Sometimes, when it seems we’re in conflict with someone else, we don’t see the threads of agreement in our dialogue or interaction. Capitalize on what you do have in common with others, and learn to respect your differences.
  • You can show you care without saying a single word by simply being willing to listen.

This is not a proclamation to “calm down.” Besides, telling someone to calm down only creates the opposite desired reaction.

This is an entreaty to continue to speak up, but to be willing to listen to those with whom we disagree, if the interaction remains respectful. If someone becomes abusive in their language or actions toward us, we must peacefully, but assertively disengage. We do not have to be anyone’s whipping post or let their words interfere with our lives.

Boundaries, people.

Get louder if necessary, but be nice about it.

Never give up what’s right.

Love yourself and love others.

To take the phrase from Ms. Clinton’s campaign, we are Stronger Together.

img_4953Kim D. Bailey, a Pushcart Prize Nominee, writes Women’s Fiction, short stories, poetry, non-fiction, and a weekly column for Five 2 One Magazine. She is currently writing a third novel. She’s published in several online literary journals and print magazines. Kim lives in her hometown of Chattanooga, TN.  To connect follow at and on Twitter @kimbaileydeal