For most of my life (and yes, I’m only 18), I tried my best to obey the “If you don’t have anything nice, don’t say anything at all” rule. And it works … sometimes.
Junior year of high school. September 11th.
Naturally, everyone stands for a moment of silence during that morning. I typically stood up and looked at the floor, but then you know that feeling when you know someone is staring at you? I looked up, and a couple seats to my left a girl stood there staring at me as if she wanted to blame me or wanted me to apologize. So I ignored it and looked back at the floor.
For homework, my teacher had assigned an article for us to read about a mosque (Muslim worship center) that was in the process of being built around the time of 9/11 near the World Trade Center. He asked, “What are your thoughts? Do you think that mosque should have been built?”
For an hour that day, I sat there listening.
“Of course it shouldn’t have been built. It makes it uncomfortable for the families of the victims.”
“It’d be insensitive to build it.”
“There shouldn’t be a mosque near the twin towers. There just shouldn’t be.”
For an hour that day, I sat there silent.
In front of my eyes were classmates that stereotyped Muslims. I took it all in. Not a single word came out of my mouth that class period.
There were a million thoughts running through my mind. I could’ve asked them if they realize they were stereotyping. I could’ve asked them if they know that some Muslims that worked there also lost their lives. I could’ve asked them why they thought Muslims should be marginalized. I could’ve asked them a million questions. But I sat there, silenced because I didn’t have anything nice to say. Because, had I gotten angry, it wouldn’t have been a nice thing.
Often times, I remember this moment and I’m angry at myself for never saying anything. I regret sitting there while everyone made a comment and turned back to look at me to see if I would respond. I should’ve said something.
Time and again, we stay quiet because we don’t necessarily have anything nice to say. Trust me, staying quiet is often worse than not speaking. Silence, often times, is a sign of agreement or lack of opinion. Let it be known that you have a voice and you should never stay silent in times of ignorance.