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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To The Friends I Won't Talk To After High School

I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.
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Hey,

So, for the last four years I’ve seen you almost everyday. I’ve learned about your annoying little brother, your dogs and your crazy weekend stories. I’ve seen you rock the awful freshman year fashion, date, attend homecoming, study for AP tests, and get accepted into college.

Thank you for asking me about my day, filling me in on your boy drama and giving me the World History homework. Thank you for complimenting my outfits, laughing at me presenting in class and listening to me complain about my parents. Thank you for sending me your Quizlets and being excited for my accomplishments- every single one of them. I appreciate it all because I know that soon I won’t really see you again. And that makes me sad. I’ll no longer see your face every Monday morning, wave hello to you in the hallways or eat lunch with you ever again. We won't live in the same city and sooner or later you might even forget my name.

We didn’t hang out after school but none the less you impacted me in a huge way. You supported my passions, stood up for me and made me laugh. You gave me advice on life the way you saw it and you didn’t have to but you did. I think maybe in just the smallest way, you influenced me. You made me believe that there’s lots of good people in this world that are nice just because they can be. You were real with me and that's all I can really ask for. We were never in the same friend group or got together on the weekends but you were still a good friend to me. You saw me grow up before your eyes and watched me walk into class late with Starbucks every day. I think people like you don’t get enough credit because I might not talk to you after high school but you are still so important to me. So thanks.

With that said, I truly hope that our paths cross one day in the future. You can tell me about how your brothers doing or how you regret the college you picked. Or maybe one day I’ll see you in the grocery store with a ring on your finger and I’ll be so happy you finally got what you deserved so many guys ago.

And if we ever do cross paths, I sincerely hope you became everything you wanted to be. I hope you traveled to Italy, got your dream job and found the love of your life. I hope you have beautiful children and a fluffy dog named Charlie. I hope you found success in love before wealth and I hope you depended on yourself for happiness before anything else. I hope you visited your mom in college and I hope you hugged your little sister every chance you got. She’s in high school now and you always tell her how that was the time of your life. I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.

And hey, maybe I’ll see you at the reunion and maybe just maybe you’ll remember my face. If so, I’d like to catch up, coffee?

Sincerely,

Me

Cover Image Credit: High school Musical

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The Ins And Outs Of Imposter Syndrome And How It Affects Women Of Color

We're taught by older generations that we always have to work twice as hard to get half as far as white peers.

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First things first I want to tell you what Imposter Syndrome is not. I know there are plenty of articles that discuss self-confidence through body image but I can guarantee you that's not what I'm talking about here. That could be another article for another day, perhaps. It's also not just a feeling of "oh, dang, I could've done that better" or "I wish I'd done that differently." It must also be noted that this is less of an actual disorder and more of a condition if you will.

What Imposter Syndrome actually is is feeling like nothing you accomplish is actually worth anything and that everything you've achieved is because of luck, not because of the work you put into it. It's always feeling like you're going to be exposed or found out for not actually being as intelligent or successful as you seem or as you say you are.

But how does this manifest in everyday life you ask? Well, of course, I am here to provide some examples.

Whenever I have a project due in one of my journalism classes, I make sure to listen to the instructions when it's being introduced. I always go back and read over the syllabus when completing my projects. I take the tips and tricks into account. I follow all of the guidelines I was given and I always try to put my best foot forward. Yet, I still always feel like I'm doing everything incorrectly or that I'm forgetting something. I feel like no matter what my professor is going to hate it and I'm going to get a bad grade.

Or it can manifest as whenever I try to apply for a job I have a hard time describing my skills or past work experience because I feel like I haven't really done anything relevant. I also don't really feel like I have many skills if any. I always remember that someone is going to have more experience or a better portfolio or a better resume. Whenever I remember that it can leave me feeling inadequate and like I don't belong. Like everyone else is a hireable employee and like I'm a poser.

I think this has a lot to do with the fact that, as a woman, you're socialized to put other people's needs and wants before your own whether that be celebrating other people's accomplishments or helping other people bounce back from failure. But you never really gain the skills to be that same support for yourself, at least not without years of work and undoing the internalized misogyny you've faced. Also because we've been socialized this way it can leave you feeling like you don't deserve anything good because the people around you haven't gotten there's yet. And that can be extremely difficult to break through.

As for people of color, because we're taught by older generations that we always have to work twice as hard to get half as far as white peers, we're always so used to exerting so much energy. But the moment you actually get recognized for your hard work can be jarring because you might feel like you weren't working as hard you could be and don't deserve it. Or that you got lucky this time but soon everyone is gonna find out the truth and you're gonna be exposed as a fraud or an underachiever.

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