White Silence is Violence?

   Photo by  Alexa Mazzarello  on  Unsplash
Photo by Alexa Mazzarello  on Unsplash

I really didn’t want this to be a blog post. 

I wanted to go on a rant on my Instagram and be done with it. But as I started recording the tenth video, I realized that I was clearly feeling some type of way and maybe I wasn’t alone in it. 

The first time I heard “White silence is violence” was at a protest after Michael Brown had been shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson. I became obsessed with the phrase. Finally, I had four words to describe why I got so angry when my white friends were tweeting about the Kardashians while my black ass was crying over another instance of police brutality. I had a reason, an excuse to want to go off on Becky who seemed to care more about Taylor Swift’s new album than racism. 

Then, I spent more time with white folks. Not racists, or conservative republicans. Just plain, well meaning white folks. Woke white folks. The ones who have friend groups that look like my high school’s Model U.N. club, white folks who checked their privilege, so I didn’t have to.

That’s when I started to think that maybe the phrase was too much. Too harsh, unfair, mean spirited. I kept hanging out with white folks and I realized their willingness to tweet #BlackLivesMatter or proclaim they have privilege in the circles that we both inhabited was pretty much where their activism ended. 

I realized, these white folks were the same ones who will tell you they have Trump supporters in their family and then say that they refuse to talk to them. They were the type of people who asked me about “black stuff” at work because they assumed that’s all I was interested in, not because they were cultured. They’re the coworkers who love your idea for a story that finally features some diversity, but don’t back you up when pitching to the boss. 

White silence is convenient. It’s privilege. It’s comfortable. 

Now, the phrase confuses me. Especially in the wake of the DACA decision.

I’ve seen a lot of my woke white peers posting the phrase across social platforms. I’m inclined to agree with them, but in this case I wonder what do you want them to say (which is also how I felt with Charlottesville)? 

I’m not convinced there is anything well meaning white folks could say in 140 characters or 1,000 words that would make the 800,000 people affected by DACA feel any better.

This administration is showing yet again that people of color, immigrants do not matter. This is 100 percent about race and taking away power. It is about making people feel inferior because of a decision their parents made in order to give them a better life. 

I don’t think a white person’s comments of *shock* or their thoughts and prayers are going to add anything positive to the conversations being had right now. In instances of racism and brutality, I don’t need white folks to post online or say things for my benefit, I need them to check their not so well meaning peers when I’m not around. 

Calling out white folks who refuse to tweet about DACA, Kaepernick’s protest or another black life lost to police brutality feels like a waste of energy at this point. If the election, Charlottesville or any discriminatory act that Trump has passed hasn’t woken them up, nothing will. 

At this point, action is everything. Keep your words, do the work. 

-BK


What do you think? Should white folks be the first to speak out in situations of injustice? Why or why not? Tweet me your thoughts or leave a comment below. 

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