White Silence Is A Form Of Violence

White Silence Is A Form Of Violence

Silence, inaction, and indifference to violence towards minorities are killing us, too.
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In the wake of the recent event that took place in North Portland, the discussion regarding white liberalism and racism has grown louder. Three white men were stabbed, two fatally wounded, on a MAX train while defending two young women of color who were being verbally attacked by a known white supremacist. Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche and Ricky John Best stood up against racism and fascism, and tragically lost their lives. While they and the young man who survived, Micah David-Cole Fletcher, have been declared heroes, many have questioned how “safe” it is to try to defend vulnerable communities, such as people of color.

I immediately found this troubling when I saw an article come across my Twitter feed, claiming it was unsafe to do what Meche, Best, and Fletcher did. I’ve heard numerous discouragements from “getting involved” in situations that have the potential to become dangerous, but at the time I didn’t quite latch onto the fact that silence was simultaneously being encouraged. Even in passive situations, people are often discouraged from pushing back against problematic rhetoric or talking about politics all together: “Is it worth it to start this argument?” you may be asked if you try to say something when that one family member decides to drop the n-word or makes derogatory comments about women at the reunion. There is a constant pressure to avoid conflict, which usually results in allowing racism, sexism, etc. to continue. It is beneficial to no one — aside from white supremacy — to sit back and watch racism flourish right in front of you.

It is important to consider your safety and possible consequences, of course, as you gauge the severity of a situation. You should understand exactly what you may be risking when involving yourself in social justice, and in what capacity you are able to act. For instance, if I attend a protest, I understand that there is a possibility of being arrested, or hurt by police, or just another civilian. When I engage in political discussions with right-leaning friends or family I understand that the outcome may be emotional trauma or the loss of a relationship. I have seen and experienced the consequences of getting involved and doing the right thing, and have decided that in certain situations, I am okay with those consequences. Others have done the same in order to defend me in the past.

Lately, the discussion regarding whether or not to stand up for what’s right appears to promote silence and complacency among privileged groups. People who lose their lives standing up to white supremacists are labeled heroes while those who escape unscathed are greeted with disdain. Then, the media has the audacity to discourage people from getting involved in these situations for their safety. So, we honor those who put their bodies on the line by thanking them then telling others to not do the same, or criticizing them for confronting violent views (and surviving). What better way to promote fear of taking a stand against racism and subsequently...silence? And all with little, to no, consideration for those hurt in the first place — such as the girls on the train.

Minorities from various communities are forced to put our lives on the line daily, simply because we exist. The two young women of color (at least one being Muslim as well) who were verbally attacked on that MAX were doing nothing wrong. The only reason Jeremy Christian sought to harm them was because they were minorities. Even those who assimilate in an attempt to gain some sense of security and belonging are never truly safe. People of color will always be seen and treated as “others” by the majority.

Whether you realize it or not, silence contributes to the violence minorities experience. It certainly does not help us, but it does permit the actions to continue. It sends a message to everyone around you that you are okay with what is happening — or too scared to challenge it. Either way, those holding these harmful beliefs and committing acts of violence are emboldened. Why wouldn’t they be when the “leadership” of the country encourages them and few dare to stop them? Minorities fight for our rights every day; we have been discussing, challenging, etc. for years. Those from the majority, from privileged positions must be willing to do their part if they do really believe equality and equity.

As a form of prejudice and systemic or institutional oppression, “racism is a white problem.” Because of this, white people must also take part in taking apart the system that works to keep people of color in a second-class citizenship status. Standing in solidarity will never be enough. There must be proactive and reactionary actions to injustices.

A part of dismantling an oppressive system challenging it whenever possible. This doesn’t mean everyone must always be willing to engage in discourse with anyone who disagrees with you. There are situations where it will be nothing but a fruitless debate, but you can still let it be known where you stand. Not all of us have the luxury of being able to avoid politics and discourse when it is convenient to us. Our existences are politicized on every front and we live in a society that makes it difficult to voice our grievances. It’s important for those with privileges to speak up, whether it’s to push back against an offensive remark, defend a minority being harassed, or just begin a conversation with other privileged folks where you can elevate the voices of marginalized groups (It should always be to elevate the voices of minorities). Don’t allow for it to continue in front of you.

Yes, it can be risky and dangerous to fight facism, but aren't the consequences of allowing it to grow far worse? If you truly believe in bringing an end to racial inequality and inequity, you must be willing to take action in whichever ways you can. Inaction will only assist oppressors and their agendas. Silence is akin to and often the same as indifference, and indifference to violence is killing us too.

Cover Image Credit: Terray Sylvester/Reuters

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When I was younger I resented you, I hated every ounce of you, and I used to question why God would give me a parent like you. Not now. Now I see the beauty and the blessings behind having an addict for a parent. If you're reading this, it isn't meant to hurt you, but rather to thank you.

Thank you for choosing your addiction over me.

Throughout my life, you have always chosen the addiction over my programs, my swim meets or even a simple movie night. You joke about it now or act as if I never questioned if you would wake up the next morning from your pill and alcohol-induced sleep, but I thank you for this. I thank you because I gained a relationship with God. The amount of time I spent praying for you strengthened our relationship in ways I could never explain.

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The amount of hurt and disappointment our family has gone through has brought us closer together. I have a relationship with Nanny and Pop that would never be as strong as it is today if you had been in the picture from day one. That in itself is a blessing.

Thank you for showing me how to love.

From your absence, I have learned how to love unconditionally. I want you to know that even though you weren't here, I love you most of all. No matter the amount of heartbreak, tears, and pain I've felt, you will always be my greatest love.

Thank you for making me strong.

Thank you for leaving and for showing me how to be independent. From you, I have learned that I do not need anyone else to prove to me that I am worthy of being loved. From you, I have learned that life is always hard, but you shouldn't give into the things that make you feel good for a short while, but should search for the real happiness in life.

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Friends Don’t Let Friends Be White Feminists

I am white. I am a feminist. But I try very hard to avoid being a "white feminist."

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Preamble 1: I'm not sure if you're aware, but it's a humid, grey April afternoon and being a woman comes with extra challenges, to which I definitely did not agree but they were probably in some fine print that I skimmed. Bummer. Anyway, feminism! Feminism's place in 2019 is contested but I am coming from a place of having heard many of the sides; given that, it would be lovely if you would hear my side.

Preamble 2: Before I get into this topic, I want to acknowledge the place of privilege from which I come. Look at my fully Irish name, I am white. Believing in social, economic, and political gender equality, I am a feminist. But I try very hard to avoid being a "white feminist". As a student at Texas A&M;, a university that sometimes strays into homogeneity in both thought and demographic, I've been noticing a pattern in many conversations concerning gender equality. The pattern is that of white feminism.

White feminism is a Western-styled picking and choosing of feminism that entails a set of beliefs tolerating the ignorance of issues that mostly impact women of color.

Contrast this philosophy with intersectional feminism, which recognizes multiple identities and experiences within us, while promoting more united gender equality. Without intersectionality, our essence cannot stand against oppression and stand for equality without acknowledgment of the nuances of different historical struggles. As women, we face difficulties, but not all women face the same oppressions and marginalizations – and that cannot be overlooked in narratives.

As far as gendered-based violence goes, the Justice Department estimates that one in five women and one in seventy-one men will experience rape in the US. However, here's where the necessary nuances come in.

Women and men of color are more likely to experience this form of violence than white women or men. Women and men who are LGBTQ+are more likely to experience this form of violence than straight women or men. Lower income women and men are more likely to experience this form of violence than women or men in the highest income brackets.

So, yes, one in five women and one in seventy-one men are rape victims. But quoting that statistic without disambiguating the data can mislead readers or listeners of the ways that different identities amalgamate into this final number. Essentially, disproportional oppressions exist. All people are at risk for gendered violence, specifically rape, in America, but some people are more at risk.

If you need more of an explanation, think of the following analogy. White feminism is to intersectional feminism what #AllLivesMatter is to #BlackLivesMatter. Everyday Feminism contends, "the former's attempt at inclusiveness can actually erase the latter's acknowledgment of a unique issue that disproportionately affects a specific group of people".

If you ever find yourself guilty of white feminism, (I've been there!) know that we are all evolving. As long as you are open to education, we are all on the same side.

Here are three vital steps you can take to make your feminism intersectional!

1. Reflect on yourself. 

Reflect on your long-held beliefs based on your perspective alone could not apply to someone else. Reflect on your privileged experiences and acknowledge them for what they are.

2. Think about others. 

Once you've figured your internal state out from step one, you ought to look at the experiences of others with the same level of validity as your own. Ethically, feminism focuses on equality. Yes, that means stopping sexism, but it also expands to mean stopping complicated systemic oppressions that affect more than just white women. That said, white feminists are not the enemy in the fight for equality, rather, they are underinformed.

3. Don’t be afraid to grow. 

Say you were wrong. There's less shame in it than you think. In fact, I genuinely wish our culture was more forgiving of people who made an honest mistake in their past, but their hearts were/are in the right place.

Allow yourself to move onwards and upwards. We are all works-in-progress. We are all striving for better versions of ourselves. Intention is everything and your intention should be to always learn.

Intersectional feminism is challenging, like all educations. If you're doing it right, it should force you to think and even make you feel a little bit uncomfortable. After all, while feminism is here to help, it is not here for your (or my) comfort.

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