Friday, November 28, 2014
The demand of silence: Shut up if you want to stay in the room
I’m reconsidering my relationship with white America.
Some of it is based on what I have heard and read. A big part of it is because of what I have not heard and read.
I’m confused by what people say. I’m also confounded by what people haven’t said. The space between the loud cries and silence forces me to reevaluate the assumptions made regarding my place in rooms where I am the only person of color.
What is being said when nothing is being said?
What does it mean when those who say they love you fail to acknowledge your rage? What does it say when they haven’t stood in solidarity after you give voice to promote unity and peace? What does the silence communicate beyond the desire to stay in the middle?
Don’t get me wrong, I understand and appreciate the privilege of silence. Standing in the middle established the context for compromise. It’s empowering to not take a position. It get it. I support it, but silence defines the terms involving your place in the room.
Silence is a negation of your voice within the context of that space. It devalues the substance behind the pain that challenges you to speak. What are the terms of silence, and how is ones space in the room compromised by speaking when silence is demanded?
Could it be that silence is America’s problem?
Could it be that black and brown people have coexisted with white America because of a willingness to remain silent? Could it be that white Americans have shared space with black and brown people while remaining silent regarding their true feelings involving sharing that space.
If space is the place where power is influenced, who owes and measures that space? What are the terms for remaining in space that demands silence, and how does the silence of those who manage space impact the voice of those limited by the conditions of space?
This is the overwhelming challenge of black and brown people functioning within space managed within the context of silence. Silence assumes a lack of affirmation, and, as such, is ultimately applied as a condition of judgment.
Black people call this being a good Negro. The term Uncle Tom has also been used to state the condition of doing everything it takes to fit within the culture of white privilege. The good Negro makes no waves. The good Negro remains silent to prevent conflict with those who manage space. Remaining in space managed by white privilege and power demands silence. The silence of those within that space is a statement related to the demand of your silence.
Is silence a necessary condition of unity, and, if so, what happens to the voice of those screaming to be heard?
Like I said, I’m rethinking my relationship with white America. Not because I don’t care, but because of the tension created by speaking. If silence is demanded as a condition of inclusion, what is lost when speaking is required as a part of your liberation?
Americans demand silence as an act of inclusion. Those with power control the terms of silence. So, what happens to the person who remains silent?
Their voice is lost in the quest to fit into a culture that demands silence.
Is the desire for silence America’s problem? Is our ability to get along conditioned by our ability to remain silent?
I may need to remain silent to fit in certain rooms. How can I?
I’m not made that way.