Friday, May 29, 2020

I will not be silent.

Soooo it's been awhile since I blogged. And it's not Tuesday. But this can't wait. Because every. day. The news is worse. Every. day. we are farther from the America I want to live in. I wrote this on Facebook first, but then decided to just go ahead and make it a blog post:

I don’t know what to say, but I’m not going to let that stop me from saying something. Because as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." I will not be silent now.

I keep waiting to wake up from the dystopian nightmare we’ve found ourselves in, but every day I find we’re deeper into it. In the midst of an unbelievably incompetent (or incredibly evil) response to a global pandemic that’s causing hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths, the president is actively encouraging violence on the same social media platform he’s also threatening to shut down for fact-checking him. Journalists are being arrested on air while police officers who killed on live video walk free. Black protesters calling attention to their right to live are met with guns and tear gas, while white protesters toting assault rifles because their haircuts are more important than other people’s health are greeted peacefully and given more attention than they deserve.

I was privileged enough to not know who Emmett Till was until I was 28, sitting in a National Writing Project class. Now I can’t get him out of my mind, and I can’t believe that so many years later, people are still being killed just for being black. Just because our society is absolutely fantastic at insidiously instilling the idea that dark = bad. That unknown = scary. That not-like-me = threatening.

If I speak Spanish in public, people are impressed; they don’t tell me to go back where I came from. When I wear a mask out (because it’s the responsible thing to do!), I don’t have to worry that someone will feel threatened by my covered face because my skin doesn’t look like theirs, or that they’ll blame me for the “Chinese virus”. If I choose to take a walk around a suburban neighborhood I don’t live in, people will smile and wave, instead of assuming I don’t belong there and calling the police. And when a cop pulls me over because he thinks I didn’t stop long enough at the dead-end intersection stop sign on my way to work, he lets me off with a warning and tells me to keep up my safe driving record; he doesn’t arrest me or kill me.

I thought America was better than this. And that’s part of the problem. Those of us with privilege cannot continue pretending our safe existence is even close to representative of the experiences of most Americans.

America SHOULD be better than this. It CAN be better than this, and it starts with us. But it will take ALL of us.

Even when we don’t know what to say, let alone what to do... we can say something. We can inform ourselves and others. We can hold space for and amplify black and brown voices. (As teachers, we can continue giving our students diverse texts and asking them to do difficult, thoughtful work with those texts. We can teach them that their experiences are valid and their voices matter.) We can vote, vote, vote.

And we can not. be. silent.