Updated: Feb 22, 2021
If you’re like me, you’ve written a number of emails, tweets and texts over the past days - then deleted them.
Your blood has run hot, you’ve reached out to your Black family members or friends and you’ve not slept a wink. You’ve scoured your syllabi to check them against the folks who self-brand with equity, but who also have fallen conspicuously silent as anti-Black racism snuffs out what COVID has scantly left behind.
The execution of Breonna Taylor, lynchings of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, and the cavalier weaponization of whiteness inflicted upon Christian Cooper are crushing weights to withstand beneath the grief and dismissal of a pandemic that disproportionately impacts the Black community.
Yet, after every well-crafted poignant and educative composition, you continue to erase your verbiage. Accessible and affordable as words are, something makes your palms sweat before you press send.
Our socialization has trained us well to self-police, to avoid rustling any feathers and above all - to not talk about race. Is it not revealing enough to admit that the most incendiary statement one can make is that Black lives matter? It almost seems nonsensical. But we refrain from calling out blatant anti-Black violence, inhumanity and pure bloodlust because the generations of white supremacy upon which we’ve been raised demands our obedience.
As far as schooling, no one taught me not to value my life. I’ve never had a teacher direct me to overtly injure myself. Still, both within my community and otherwise the expectations to “prove them wrong,” “not give them a reason,” and “work twice as hard,” intermingles with messages of arbitrary punishment, invisibility and hyper surveillance to drive home a paralyzing message: just survive and be grateful for your semblance of a life.
So, I kept silent when they forced me out of classes to which I’d academically placed.
I kept silent when I was made to take the same courses repeatedly despite having passed with an ‘A.’,
I kept silent when they called me a nigger to my face as a new teacher.
I kept silent when they sanctioned my own students’ ability doing the same.
I kept silent when they chased my siblings out of the park threatening to call the police because their dogs wanted to play.
When they touched my hair without permission. Every. Damned. Time.
When they admitted to paying her more because they ‘reserved the right to…’
I held my peace for a decade plus of overwork and underindulgence only to uproot from communities of cultural richness and land in a violent blue-ribbon experience for my gifted son - all at 61 cents on the dollar.
We are clearly beyond justifiability.
Still the combination of personal, structural and societal conditioning whispers don’t do it - you’ll be made to pay.
And we will. We will pay if we walk, talk, sit, stand, sleep, play, protest, bird-watch - and most certainly if we’re silent. So for ourselves and for our health, to begin dislodging the carceral restraint from deep within our bones for the first time in our lives, for the love of freedom - we must not keep silent. Our very lives depend upon it.