15 June 2020
I have not posted much of anything related to the current unrest in our country and across the world and a big reason for that is because I don’t necessarily know what my voice or presence adds to the discussion. Others have more clearly identified the injustices, or more eloquently described the fear and anger, or more effectively enumerated some of the necessary changes. And although I want to be part of the call for change, I’ve maintained an uncharacteristic silence to keep from getting in the way of that message. Due to a recent interaction, I decided to collect some thoughts and share them here.
About a week ago, our state began to relax social-distancing constraints and my wife, daughter and I took the opportunity to spend a physically-distanced afternoon with others. It was a beautiful day and I appreciated seeing something other than the familiar walls and clutter of my home. It wasn’t a necessarily long outing–we left after only a couple of hours–but I felt as though we enjoyed the brief reminder of what life looked like without the threat of a dangerous virus.
After leaving, my wife shared with me a comment by someone who joined us that made her extremely uncomfortable. When speaking of the protests, this person callously referred to George Floyd as a criminal, insinuating he somehow deserved to die and that the outrage was unjustified. The comment was made with either a willful ignorance of the controversy or a confidence that they could make that type of remark without ridicule or rebuke from others in attendance.
If the latter were true, they were right. Those who heard hadn’t said anything and conversation eventually shifted.
Like most couples, my wife and I are similar in some ways, and different in others. It’s the differences that add variety and spice to each day. One example is that I tend to acknowledge and respond directly to confrontation by others, while she prefers to keep the peace and gently turn the other cheek. Over time, we’ve learned balance from the other, but we still trend toward a certain response.
While discussing the comments by this person, she described the difficult position she found herself in and the hesitation she felt in the moment. Does she speak up and bring light to the controversy? This could result in many possible outcomes, but it’s very likely that decision ends with at least one party abandoning the outing and others becoming upset with her. On the other hand though, does she say nothing and appear agreeable to this repulsive opinion?
In the process of our discussion, it became increasingly evident to us that this interaction represented a larger issue in the context of current events: ultimately, silence is complicity, inaction is not compassion, and equality is only possible when we work to shine light on the roots of prejudice, giving hate no place to hide and grow.
“No matter how big a nation is, it is no stronger than its weakest people, and as long as you keep a person down, some part of you has to be down there to hold him down, so it means you cannot soar as you might otherwise.” 1
My desire is to be an ally for those who are continuously mistreated simply because of the color of their skin and I truly hope the privilege I’ve experienced in my life affords me opportunities to have their voices heard, even when they’re not present. One of the ways my wife and I–or anyone for that matter–can directly advocate for change is to stand up and speak out against hateful ideologies.
Marian Anderson ↩