Breaking the Legacy of Silence #48
It’s Time to Name It,
And Tame It:
Silence is Violence
Kim D. Bailey
“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” Elie Wiesel
Welcome to another installment of Breaking the Legacy of Silence. My editors and I decided we would make this weekly column live on Monday instead of over the weekend, so you can be supported, informed, offended, or indifferent on another day of the week! Yay!
As quickly as things happen and information is disseminated in our modern culture, it’s hard to keep up with current events well enough to speak to it in a timely manner. Especially with our current administration.
This time I can to speak to something near and dear to my heart and correlate it with a relevant and recent event, one that happened over the weekend, and that is…
It’s all I need to write so that most of you understand. But because I’m a writer, and I tend to be verbose anyway and belabor points that mean a lot to me, and there are some who have no clue what I’m talking about, I’m going to go on.
Our unwillingness to speak up to egregious acts of violence, groups of people whose primary goal is to spread their hateful rhetoric and make it an active policy, and to people who wish to shut us down with references to counter attacks like Ferguson, MO and Black Lives Matter as “wrong so why shouldn’t white lives matter?” are all cancerous inactions and retorts, and they are destroying our country.
The group of white folks who assembled with Tiki torches on the University of Virginia campus on Friday night, August 11, 2017 and who also started to assemble again the next day at Emancipation Park to protest the removal of the Robert E. Lee memorial, and ended up face-to-face with counter protestors in the streets of Charlottesville screaming, “Unite the Right” and “Jews will not replace us!” are being called many things by the media, by our officials, and by people all over the country right now.
What some people are reluctant to say is exactly what needs to be said, and that is this:
This group of White Nationalists, aka White Supremacists, aka Terrorists, aka Neo-Nazi’s, aka Trump Supporters, aka Rednecks, aka Bigots, aka Racists, aka Christians—are wrong.
What they are doing, what they are saying, and what they believe—is wrong.
As John Pavlovitz said in his post over the weekend:
“This is racism. This is domestic terrorism. This is religious extremism. This is bigotry. It is blind hatred of the most vile kind. It doesn’t represent America. It doesn’t represent Jesus. It doesn’t speak for the majority of white Americans…No, naming it won’t change it, but naming it is necessary nonetheless. It’s necessary for us to say it—especially when the media won’t, when our elected leaders won’t, when our President won’t. It’s necessary to condemn it so we do not become complicit in it.”
My agenda here is quite clear, and for those who follow me, you know it can be inflammatory and gut wrenching when I get going on a topic that people don’t want to hear about, much less talk about.
But it’s how I roll. My brand here is about speaking to the things “polite society” would normally remain silent to, and encourage as well as try to force the rest of us, to do the same.
Charlottesville is an example of the problem we face as a nation.
We have a president in our White House who has no respect for the office he holds. He turns his nose up to our government and our checks and balances. He calls the White House a “dump.” He thinks he has the market cornered on how to “make America great again.” He’s in bed with Russians, the mob, White Supremacists, Corporate America, and “The Good Ole Boys Club.”
He doesn’t care about our nation, or most of the citizens who inhabit it. What he cares about his power, money, and glory. He’s sold his soul to be in the highest political position of our nation and smugly shrugs his shoulders while he refuses to NAME the RACIST TERRORISTS who began their rally on Friday night and ended it with killing 1 and injuring 19 more counter-protestors.
What was Trump’s response? It was a non-committal. It was a non-response. It was lip service, and a nod and a wink to his base that he’s still got their backs. He did not denounce the White Supremacists who gathered Friday night or Saturday. When he learned of the deaths of the counter-protestors, his “TWEET” was, “…best regards to the families…”!
“I can’t even.” Says the white girl in me.
If you have a problem with people who are different than you because of color, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender differences, and you denounce them openly by saying things like, “Jews will not replace us,” and “White/All Lives Matter,” and “Unite the Right,” then you’re the problem, too.
And that “All Lives Matter” thing? Well, what you fail to grasp is that people of color have long been persecuted, oppressed, and demoralized. White people, for the most part, have had it relatively easy compared to them. Some of us have grown up white and very poor. We understand some of the oppression. However, the color of our skin gets us a pass that people of color don’t get, and that alone is privilege we don’t realize we have until we are willing to acknowledge it—to name it for what it is.
We as a nation are diverse because that is what America was supposed to be founded upon—freedoms of speech, religion, community, and endeavors. We are a nation rich in resources but poor in the equal dispersal of said resources. We are a country where white men who either come from money or have a lot of money are the minority, but they are the ones in power. In truth, our country was never meant for “everyone’s” prosperity and freedom. It was meant for the gentrified, the upper class, white, male, Christians to have access and control over most resources and powers that be.
We are a country of division, where people refuse to acknowledge their own biases, and where disagreeing with the majority will get you ostracized, or at the very least, ridiculed.
While I prepared myself for writing this column installment, I perused my Facebook and fueled up on some posts from many of my friends, who yes, are mostly like-minded and believe a lot of what I believe. However, I also gained insight and understanding by reading what people had to say differently. Listening to someone who doesn’t share our exact vision can be difficult, but it’s necessary in our diverse culture. When people don’t speak with hate and intend to hurt and degrade other groups of people, then, my ears are open.
Gail Konop, a writer I admire, and one of my friends on Facebook, said, “Silence is violence.” She said it wasn’t her original quote, but I couldn’t find the source for it, so I’m leaving it here as unsourced and uncited except for Gail’s reference.
She’s right. Anytime we choose to remain silent when others are wrong, when they are spreading hateful speech and inciting violence to others, and we get offended when people like me bring up topics that are “impolite” and appear to be “dirty laundry,” we are condoning and enabling oppression of someone. We become complicit in our inaction and our silence. We are just as guilty of the egregious acts perpetrated on a group of citizens that come from these silences as those who wield the policy, weapon, or chain.
Just ask those who survived the Holocaust, or their descendants. Ask those who survived Apartheid, or their families. Read Elie Wiesel’s Night, The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank, Nelson Mandela’s A Long Walk to Freedom, or read some examples of oppression of women such as Ann and Goody Glover from the Salem Witchcraft Trials all the way to the Presidential debate in 2016 when Donald Trump called Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman” for disagreeing with him.
Racism, Bigotry, and Misogyny are so alive and present in our modern 2017.
They won’t go away by ignoring their presence and effects, condemning those who speak up to their experiences, remaining silent while people we know and love are hurt and demoralized by them, and standing back under the guise of, “It’s not my problem or my place to speak or act.”
We need YOU to come out of your self-imposed silences and start speaking up for those of us who have fought our entire lives for equality and decent treatment.
Stop hiding. Start talking. Get to doing.