The Privilege to Remain Silent

There’s less than 5,000 miles between Nicaragua and the U.S. Sometimes, it feels like a million more.

Tyre King. Terence Crutcher. Keith Lamont Scott. Charlotte shut down by protests. And just last night, Alfred Olango.

Here in Nicaragua, I feel far from that reality. Each time another Black person is shot dead by police in the U.S. – often American police to kill more people in a day than most nations have killed by police in an entire year – I am newly distraught and feel impotent.

What can a white girl in Nicaragua do to stop Black people being killed in the U.S.? The short answer is that I don’t know.

But I do know that it is a privilege to remain silent. As long as parents of Black children have to live in fear for their kid’s lives every day, then I must get over my fear of saying the wrong thing. The very least I must do is to give up the privilege of remaining silent, and speak up.

Are you listening now? I don’t know what to say, but this is me passing over the mic to those who do know what to say (see below for a To Do List and a List of Resources):

“I really want to say something insightful. I really do. I want to say something that is going to penetrate the collective consciousness. But there are no words. There’s just a vision. Of my 19-year-old son. Every time one of these stories comes out, I see my son’s face…I don’t believe there’s anything he could do that would guarantee his safety if encountered by police officers. Nothing. That’s a hard thing for a mother. But it should be a hard thing for everyone.” – Zenobia Jeffries

 

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Photo: Jonathan Bachman/Reuters

“The daily stream of brutality has an unintended consequence — it makes seeing the deeper sources of the problem difficult. In effect, a few times a week, we feel like our house is on fire. During the blaze it’s hard to think about fire codes, building materials, and response times — you just want the fire to be put out”– Shaun King 

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Ferguson, Misouri. October, 2014. (Photo by Sarah-Ji/flickr/cc)

“Neither our grievances nor our solutions are limited to the police killing of our people. State violence takes many forms – it includes the systemic underinvestment in our communities, the caging of our people, predatory state and corporate practices targeting our neighborhoods, government policies that result in the poisoning of our water and the theft of our land, failing schools that criminalize rather than educate our children, economic practices that extract our labor, and wars on our Trans and Queer family that deny them their humanity.” – Movement for Black Lives

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“We know that all lives matter. WE KNOW. But we have to say #BlackLivesMatter to remind people of our humanity, which is far too often forgotten. So for white people (or anyone who isn’t Black) to feel like this proclamation somehow diminishes THEIR humanity is to confirm that very self-centeredness that we’re fighting against.” – Luvvie Ajayi

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Photo: Wendy Goodfriend

“hey white friends!…many of us are so burnt out on images of dead black bodies that going to work, school, turning on the tv or scrolling through FB is a struggle. so we need you to DO THE WORK. talk to your people OFF FACEBOOK instead of thinking a vague call out post or sharing an article is enough. it’s not. this isn’t about likes, head pats & cookies. ALLYSHIP TAKES WORK & that work is often uncomfortable. Francescesa “Chescaleigh” Ramsey

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“We no longer need white allies, but white co-conspirators. Don’t just talk about really be about this life and ACT.” Luvvie Ajayi

There’s no easy How to acting, but we have to start somewhere. I’ve started with the most concrete steps at the top.

To Do List

  1. Sign a petition: there concrete policy demands out there, you can find national and local initiatives and sign their petitions and start your own campaign for local change here.
  2. Sign on to national petition to defund police departments that lack reform
  3. Join the white ally group Showing Up For Racial Justice
  4. Take the pledge to stand with the Movement for Black Lives
  5. Let go of your fear of speaking up. Afraid you’ll say the wrong thing? You probably will, at some point, but you can’t let that silence you.
  6. Use your voice – if you’re reading this, you’re probably on Facebook. You can start by reposting what others have said, links to the articles you’re reading. Start the conversation.
  7. Speak to real people, too. These conversations have to happen in our real lives. Other people are likely as hungry for conversation as you are, and just as uncomfortable.
  8. Talk to your kids: at lunch I told my kids what I was working on and why it was important. Eibhlín suggested all the Black people we know should move to Nicaragua where it’s safe. It was a good place to start. From there we got to talk about why not everyone can move to Nicaragua, and why everyone has the right to be safe in their own country. Even if you don’t have the answers, begin the conversation. We and our kids can look for answers together.
  9. Know what’s going on: Follow the links above and Resources below.

Resources:

  1. Showing Up for Racial Justice’s Police Brutality Action Kit
  2. Follow Erica Hines on Facebook, she is constantly putting up great resources
  3. Read everything at http://www.awesomelyluvvie.com yes, even the lighthearted posts.
  4. Movement for Black Lives: read the Platform and then just read everything at Movement for Black Lives, their demands are well-articulated, include policy recommendations and are a great source for backing up what you say when you talk to folks.
  5. Shaun King has done a 25-part series in the New York Daily News with solutions for reducing police brutality that is amazing, read it all!
  6. Take the class: Prof. Frank Leon Roberts is teaching a class, Black Lives Matter Movement, this fall at New York University. He’s put the whole syllabus online, you can read and watch everything in the class.
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