White Noise: The Loud Silence We Impart On Our Black Friends

I hear your exasperated sigh as the man on the tv sounds his voice through your living room, demanding justice. “What is he going on about? What year is this anyway? Racism is dead, and Jesus made us all the same.”

A nagging whisper in the back of your mind asks you to reconsider what you have just heard, but it’s quickly dismissed and you go about your day.

No, best not to think about these matters. Best not to get involved.

I see you peeking at the headlines and shaking your head. “But some of my best friends are black, so I’m not a racist. This isn’t even about me,” you recite to yourself as you close your lips tightly.

Better not get involved in such matters.

I see you squirm as the jokes are being told. “That’s not funny,” I hear you say with a nervous laugh. You are met with an eye roll and “Oh yeah, we say ‘white trash’ too, so it’s okay.”

It’s NOT okay, but the moment has passed, and it’s best to not get involved. After all, they are good people and they mean no harm. This casual racism hurts no one. Least of all YOU.

“Next time I’ll speak louder,” you promise yourself…but for now, it’s probably best to just let it go and not to think about such matters.

I see the tears rolling down your cheeks, “That’s a mama just like me…” I hear you whimper.

You give yourself a good cry and then dishes to distract.

After all, it’s better not to get involved…right?

I see you shaking your fist in anger, “He was a child no different than mine!” Your voice so unsteady it begins to alarm you. You look around to make sure that no one saw you.

It’s better not to get involved. I mean- what would they say? You tuck your children in extra tight.

I see you scrolling through your newsfeed. Another man is dead, but he is not the victim. The injustice of possible accountability is displayed with such passion, that you forget for a minute what the headline was even about.

Desperate fingers tell the story of a hero; no matter the truth, so long as he’s no racist, because racism does not exist. Hate does not exist unless it’s convenient and it’s brown. Heroes wear blue, and there is no exception.

Heartrate rising, I see your face turn red. I know that look on your face. The furrowed brow and gritted teeth. You see an injustice and you are burning to call it out.

You settle for a “like.” You agree that this is wrong, but you take a deep breath…because anger helps nothing and no one…it’s best to not get involved. Besides, what does one voice even matter?

It will be okay…it will be okay…

But-

“Black lives matter!”

“Black lives matter!”

“Black lives matter!”

The call you did not answer keeps ringing in your ears.

And something inside of you breaks this time and you cannot quiet this unrest.

“NOOOO! It’s not okay! None of this is okay!” you scream into the darkness of your own bedroom-

and just saying those words out loud breaks forth a dam of injustices that you have been tucking away; lies that you have been told and that you have believed-

that racism is many shades of grey and that any wrong at all makes all things right and acceptable so long as we don’t ever-EVER acknowledge what has been right in front of our faces all along,-

and they have been trying to tell us- DYING to tell us- And we have been SILENT!

We have laughed with our brown friends; cried with them, done life with them- we have LOVED them and all the while, we have ignored the tragedy before us.

We have made them exceptions.

We have allowed ourselves to pretend that we did not know that they were hurting, and why? So that we didn’t have to?

But-

“White lives matter too”

But-

“What about all of the black on black crime?”

But-

“If they don’t want to get hurt, then they should learn to follow the rules”

But-

“Black cops kill white people too”

And on and on it goes…these things that we tell ourselves; that we tell each other; this WHITE NOISE that lulls us back to sleep so that we don’t have to take a hard look at the world around us and at our own hearts.

I see you; rubbing your eyes- the sleep still in them, though you have awoken from your slumber and you are angry. Mostly at yourself. And hey, maybe you really didn’t know any better before, but you most decidedly do now, so what are you going to do about it? Because silent or not, you were always involved. Your silence was a deafening scream in the ears of your hurting friends.

My silence has been a deafening scream in the ears of my hurting friends.

Until we face the reality before us, we cannot unravel the lies. Until we ask the questions, we cannot find the answers. Until we look ourselves dead in the eye and demand nothing less than the truths we so desperately hide behind, we are guilty in this war.

If calling it a war makes you uncomfortable, then stand up and don’t become a casualty.

It IS a choice.

It is YOUR choice.

It is MY choice.

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