Learning to Speak
This post is prompted by a post that my cousin, Bruce, shared on facebook from a close personal friend of his. I am adding my voice to others and challenging all the silent people, like myself, to raise their voices, to step out of the shadows and be seen and heard to dismantle a system that allows behavior like kneeling on the neck of another human being, in this case George Floyd, to go unpunished for nearly a decade. This has perpetuated because those who were aware and knew it was wrong have remained silent.
People who know me know I hate conflict. I tend to hold my tongue in order to avoid being drawn into conflict, to avoid supporting it, but really to avoid being called names and having people directing hostility at me.
I can’t even imagine what it would be like to live life with name calling and open hostility a perpetual part of my daily routine.
I do know that holding my tongue in situations where I should have stood up for someone else has made me feel small and powerless. What must it be like to be crushed between the rock of deference to avoid making an immediate situation worse and the rock of taking a stand and risking your life to even have your voice? It is one of my unearned privileges that I have never faced that choice when speaking to a police officer.
There is a saying I admire that says: “In order to hold someone down a part of you needs to stay down there with them.” I don’t know who said it but I think it is powerful.
As long as American society is determined to hold others down/back out of fear and/or hate (and aren’t those really part and parcel of the same attitude?) we are all held back and down.
There are, I think, many more silent people like myself, who hold their tongues, sit quietly in the background, freeze into invisibility, and hope it all will go away. It won’t. Not until all the silent ones stand up with their brothers and sisters who are being held down with metaphoric (or actual) knees on their necks will things change.
There are many ways to stand up and be seen and heard. I am not going to tell other silent people how they should stand up. We all have to find our own way. We all have to find our own courage. We all have to take our own action. I chose this action because it involves using my voice in public and taking something of a risk. It is only a tiny risk, in the grand scheme of things because I have chosen to disable comments on my blog. Comments are disabled because I am not inviting discussion. I am finding the one foot I can put in front of the other to take steps towards personal change so that I can participate in societal change.
I am stating clearly: To place your knee on the neck of another human being, in this case George Floyd, is to disgrace all that it means to be a human. To disregard the pleas of a human to breathe, and those of the people around him to let him breathe, is criminal.
I will close with two quotes and a challenge. The first is from an NPR article about and with Clarence Castile. The second is from Martin Luther King Jr.
“You know what could be done? Accountability, right now,” Castile said, adding: “It’s about everybody playing a small part. We all have a small part to play in the big picture, but if we just stand back and do nothing, then there’s going to be an empty space out there. And the more of us that do nothing, the emptier the space will be.”–Clarence Castile from this NPR article.
“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”––Martin Luther King, Jr.
What’s your first step? Find it. Take it.