Nonfiction Societal The Word 4 minute read

Silence

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Silence. Helicopters were overhead, all of our televisions were on, my house phone and cell phones kept ringing with friends crying, preaching, urging action, praying.  What I heard most was the silence.

As the quiet stretched on, I became the girl after the first date, the senior waiting for the test results, the entrepreneur after the sales pitch:  anxiously checking my phone and my computer—-waiting. Refresh. Refresh.

Where was the outrage? Where were the posts from my non-black friends about the lack of indictment of the police officers in Eric Garner’s death. Didn’t they see the tape? Didn’t they hear him say they he couldn’t breathe?  All requested was a trial, a chance to present the case, a chance.

I was taken back to Tuskegee University, marching through the streets of the small town of Alabama with hundreds of other proud, Black college students because the police officers we had watched repeatedly beat Rodney King were found innocent of any wrong doing. But there was a tape, we thought then.  The country was divided. That was 1991, almost 25 years ago. We had to be better now.

Refresh….refresh….the posts kept coming in.  “We got our Christmas tree today.” Fuck your Christmas tree, I thought. Do you know a man died at the hands of the police–those who are supposed to protect and serve us? He leaves 5 kids without a father, a wife without a husband.  “Bobby won his game.” Eric Garner will never get to see his kids play a game. Silence.  The protests were starting to pop-up  all over the country, the indignity was spreading across the world.  Meanwhile, my white friends seemed oblivious. Void of an opinion, any emotion or even an acknowledgement.  We didn’t matter was the message. The silence was insulting.

I “heard” the same silence immediately after the Michael Brown shooting and lack of indictment. In this case, I attributed the silence to the all of the surrounding controversy. Perhaps the silence was due to fear.  Although, I still contend that if a large dog savagely bit a police officer and the police officer shot the dog, not once but 12 times, and then left the dog in the middle of the road for 4.5 hours, my Facebook page would have been busy from traffic from my friends of all races.

I realized and I accepted a long time ago that there are going to be bad guys in the world.  Racists will exist.   I hope that the majority of us stick up for good, for right when it is clear that somebody has been wronged (even if the wronged person is flawed– because aren’t we all). The vast majority of the time, our opinions are varied; life experiences shade our judgments; accounts of events will be different but sometimes something happens that touches us all.  A video only increases the liklihood of this occurring. We all watched Mr. Garner begging and gasping, “I can’t breathe.” Is race so blinding?  Does it also make us mute?

Does race have such a power over people that a Black man can so easily become a thug?  Is it so dividing that you aren’t moved when you see Michael Brown mother’s face. She buried her child, her baby).  Can you not pause for a moment and say, that there is a decided division in America right now and I care: as an American, as a human.  I want to know that you see Michael Brown and Eric Garner.  When you act like you don’t see them or acknowledge them, it makes me feel as if you don’t see me.  Aren’t I your friend?

I want to believe that my boys lives, my life, Black lives matter. I want to believe in humanity.  If I feel as if you have been wronged due to your race, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, I will be outraged. And regardless of your race, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, I will speak out. I will acknowledge. I won’t be silent.

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