** I’m typing this on my cell after driving across Texas all day so this is going to rather rough and not fully fleshed out but I’ve got to get it out of my head**

Today is the extra and final day of a rather extraordinary Black History Month. Maybe it’s always extraordinary but this month felt different. Maybe because it’s the last BHM of the first Black President? I don’t know but I willingly — gratefully even– participated and celebrated. Something that I haven’t done in some years.

The thing about Black History Month in particular and black history in general is that it’s American History. You don’t have to be Black to celebrate it because it’s part of our collective history in this country.

And guess what? You don’t have to be Black to protest police brutality or injustice in any form. You -whether white or Asian or Latino or Black – can open your mouth and speak out. You too can stand against injustice. 

I thought about this last night as I read my Twitter feed about the Oscars. Black actors and actresses were willing to jeopardize their careers to speak out against a system that devalues them and their work while everyone else remained silent. From my Twitter updates, only the Mexican director Iñarritu (apart from the obvious Chris Rock) felt compelled to say something about the very white Oscars (and Hollywood in general).    The well-dressed audience (of various races) politely clapped but maintained the status quo. I imagine that black actors are just as disappointed in the silence of their friends as I am. As Dr. King was. I often think about what it would take to unstick the tongues of the majority of my friends — what it would take to unsilence them, but I haven’t figured it out yet.

You know there’s nothing particularly heroic in my black skin — no superhuman powers that magically protect me from the consequences of speaking out about racial injustice. The consequences -whether in lost friendships or in the professional realm- will (and have already) come. That is a very real effect of talking about racism. But the consequences of remaining silent are even greater.

Maybe you think that racism doesn’t affect you because your skin lacks melanin. Perhaps you think this in some way makes you neutral- and that you can remain outside of it all. That you can remain silent and good. Except that’s not an option What you don’t understand is that you’re already infected–that you’re part of the system and part of the problem. You’ve been indoctrinated into this system since the day that you were born — just like I was. 

I can’t say this enough: there is no neutrality here.  Your silence means that you’ve chosen a side.

*sigh* I’m tired. I’ve been driving all day. Perhaps I’ll close the loop on this post eventually.

One Comment on “The Silence of Our Friends

  1. Pingback: The Silence of Our Friends | Ike Onwubuya blog

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