In the global revolt led by Black people that spread to all 50 states and even worldwide — with protests in England, France and Belgium — white people in America can somehow still justify remaining silent in a matter of basic civil rights. We are in the midst of a cultural awakening and one of the largest civil rights movements in the history of our country and still there are people who do not see their place on the right side of history.
The idea that white silence equals white violence sounds like a radical concept and may make people uncomfortable, but that is the point. White Americans can no longer skirt through the day and pretend that everything is alright — it is not. Someone being able to post what they ate for lunch but not being able to post about Black Lives Matter out of fear of offending someone says a lot more about them and their willingness to comply than they may think.
I am so tired of seeing people proudly announce that "all lives matter" in response to a movement focused on Black individuals, and criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement. We know that all lives should matter. That is an obvious fact, but all lives cannot matter until Black and Indigenous People of Color in America get the racial equality that is long overdue. The people who respond to “Black Lives Matter” with “all lives matter” but then say “blue lives matter” and respond with silence are the same people who do not check themselves and realize what is missing.
White silence looks like watching life leave an innocent man’s eyes as he called out for his mother and saying nothing. White silence looks like watching a twelve-year-old boy shot while playing in the park and saying nothing. White silence looks like watching a man jog down the street and being fatally shot three times and saying nothing. White silence looks like choosing white comfort over necessary racial equality.
This white silence is deafening on the ears of BIPOC and comes in many forms. Saying nothing to racist family members and friends and making excuses for those individuals is unacceptable. Saying “they are just a product of their time” is disgusting and inexcusable. It is 2020 and people are still finding themselves afraid to rock the boat. If no one had ever challenged the status quo in history, there is no doubt that civil rights wouldn’t be as far as they are today.
However, this does not mean that all white allies must immediately get into the streets and begin marching. Protesting in the streets is not the only form of activism, though it may be one of the most popular. There are many ways to stand up for what is right — from donating to speaking out against racism in its most prevalent forms. It is not difficult for white Americans to fight against racist institutions and yet many choose the side of comfort in remaining silent. Throughout American history, it has always been Black individuals fighting against the systems of oppression put into place by the white population — it is way past time for white Americans to join the fight.
The point of this column is not to make any one person feel bad or to shame anyone into thinking they are not doing enough. This column is a call to action for not only the University’s white students, but all other readers to realize that now is the time for action. Slavery was abolished only 155 years ago, and many in this country still do not realize how oppression and racism continue to exist and affect marginalized communities.
It is not up to an ally to decide what being a good ally means — one cannot simply decide when they have done enough. Being a good ally is lifting others up. Being a good ally is not taking opposing views as attacks. Being a good ally is listening to and believing the underrepresented experience. Being a good ally is not gaslighting. Being a good ally is recognizing microaggressions and correcting them. Many still do not realize — or just choose not to recognize — that racism is a driving force of power in our country.
It is time for white Americans to realize that their privilege gives them the advantage of the public eye and that their voices are often heard much louder than that of Black Americans. There is no one demanding that white people apologize profusely and wear chains in solidarity. All we want is acknowledgment and due support. As a young Black woman myself, it is not my responsibility to educate people on how to take up the torch, even though I have anyway. It is their own job to find tools and use them.
Aliyah D. White is a Viewpoint Writer for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Cavalier Daily. Columns represent the views of the authors alone.