Your Silence is Violence

Black people are being shot in historic churches and assaulted by police at pool parties. Black Haitians are being deported from the Dominican Republic. It literally feels like there is no safe place for people of color.

I am scared. I am sad. I am angry. I am numb.

I have been pretty open about my anger, and also very honest when discussing white supremacy and privilege. I am horrified that there is no outrage from the white community. You have the nerve to say “all lives matter” when we say “black lives matter. If all lives mattered to you, why are you so quiet? Your silence is violence, and it perpetuates anti-black racism.

An old (white) friend sent me a message yesterday, saying something along the lines of “I know that guy was racist who killed 9 people, but I’m not racist. I don’t live that life. I’m not the same as him.”


I am calling you out to pull you in. Understanding that racism is systemic, not just an individual trait, is a huge part in grasping the core of this issue: white people are not showing up for people of color. If we want to see any change, white people need to do better. When a person of color commits an act of terror, there is always an expectation for that community to apologize and repent. Why is is not the same for the white community? I expect an apology. I expect action. I expect the community to look inwards and address the deep-seeded racism that perpetuates these acts of violence.

I shared this article with my old friend, hoping that it would help them see their own white fragility playing out, as well as their belief in individualism. Let’s just say, I don’t think she got it (and it really isn’t my job, as a person of color, to explain systemic racism to a white person—do your homework). The conversation soon turned into “I’m actually a minority where I live, so I know what it’s like” with some other white bullshit sprinkled in there. And this scared me to my bones.

How can we move forward, together, when the white population cannot even realize how much they benefit from the system that was built by white people, for white people? I am tired. It is exhausting to wake up every morning and hope that one of your people hasn’t been murdered in the night. It is exhausting to constantly have to explain to white people why black lives matter. It is exhausting to always have to educate white people about their own ignorance.

So I’m not doing it anymore. I need to do some self-preservation if I am going to continue the work I do to dismantle the oppressive system. I do not have time to explain to white people how they benefit from systemic racism, and how that has been playing out since the begining of our history. I simply do not have the energy anymore.

The conversation with my friend/not sure if we are friends anymore ended with her asking me this (in a hostile way that was not appreciated): what exactly do you want white people to do?
Look inwards. Look at your own privilege. The first step to eradicating racism is acknowledging that the entire system we live in reeks with racism and white supremacy.
Acknowledge that you, as a white person, benefit from this system in multiple ways.
Acknowledge that you have yet to go to a black lives matter protest because those issues “don’t really affect you” (which is a delusion-they do).
Acknowledge that people of color are suffering, and think about how your community can combat that. Call out racism when you see it. Don’t let your white friends get away with it. Be our ally in this fight.

Once that happens, then we can start fighting this racist system, together.

Illustration by Sarah Helene Green

One thought on “Your Silence is Violence”

  1. White male/59 here. Liberal on most issues but neither Dem or Rep. They both need serious overhauls.

    The following is an excerpt from my post in the “what men say to women” blog post where I kind of went off topic a bit to make a point of some changes I have witnessed in society lately.

    Change 1 : an increase in the amount of crap statements thrown at women everyday.
    Change 2 : an increase in the amount of black lives ended unjustly. the amount of murders perpetrated by the police.

    the only real similarity between the two is “an increase in the amount of”, although both groups are clearly past and present victims of a white male dominated society.

    excerpt: ( and please, I am NOT saying this is Obamas fault ok ? )

    “One other unrelated example of a spike in behavior, an ugly behavior which obviously was just hiding under the surface as long as the status quo was maintained, I have seen, imo, in society, is the rearing up of that old ugly head of racism and I see that as a reaction to Barack Obamas election to president. I’m not blaming him. He has every right to be president and I saw it as a good thing for America, still do, even if he may not be the best president, if this is really the America we think it is, free and democratic with the same rights for all, his election should be seen as a plus in terms of us reaching towards equality for all. But the reaction by many who were “closet racists” up to this point and now becoming very vocal and sometimes violent, is due to a black man being “put in charge”.

    added in for this post:
    (If you get what i’m saying, that last statement is what I feel is stirring around in some white minds.)

    My point with the Obama reference was to show how societies change and can be changed by events and sometime a chain of events. Maybe improvements can be made by looking very closely at peoples motivations for their actions , and not just the actions themselves.”

    end of excerpt:

    well the motivation idea had more to do with the “things said to women that they don’t want to hear from strangers.”

    But basically what i’m saying is what we speak of fixing in relation to “Black lives matter” is what we’ve been trying to fix since the slaves were brought here to pick cotton and tobacco. The notion that one human being is in a class of species lower than ourselves (if we are white) is RACISM period. What we are seeing is a “flare up” and I explained why already. We tried legislating equality and that did make it a bit better in some ways but increased the violence for a while as some folks don’t like being told they are unfair and not real Americans because they don’t believe in equality for all. The word “EQUALITY” to me , implies “for all”.

    This current violence from the police, and others, is not a new concept for those who rode on the “Freedom buses” that traveled from the north through the south in the mid 60s. Like the bus that was set on fire with a full load of black passengers in Mississippi. Sad as it may sound, it almost appears as though nothing short of another “Civil War” will have any shot at change. All some people understand is being with their own and segregation. We don’t really live together with others different than us even now. We still try and find, for many, places of refuge with “our kind” . Look at our neighborhoods. Although I am seeing more rich/poor divisions cropping up where white sand blacks who have money are willing to group together, behind gated communities, to protect themselves and their “stuff” from the poor “thieves”, and the poor blacks and whites are willing to group together to protest income equality. What about folks from India, and other countries with similar belief systems,. who bring their own idea of a class-based society having “untouchables” ? Wow, not to get off topic, but can America embrace a culture that considers many of its people as “untouchables” ? Why not. We seem to embrace all kinds of other ugliness.

    I wish I had an answer to fixing all this. It seems that looking inside ourselves, deeply, to find our innate humanity, if it exists, is really the only way. And if we cant, there is no answer, only a future of despair and wars and killing and deaths and sorrow and…..well….tears.

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