White Silence And Complicity

We’re onto chapter Four of Layla F. Saads Me and White Supremacy. White Silence. My this is taking longer than I thought. I have to constantly remind myself this is not a race but an ongoing process.

White Silence is the defending of the status quo. I defend my guilt and silence by assuming I am powerless so my words do not matter. What I am trying to do is add to the conversation and support friends even if they appear to have a plethora of support. I knew this Chapter be a difficult one as soon as she read the title, I’m listening on Audible. So much of the previous chapters I have noted my silence as the problem and not my words. Near the end Saad points out one of my key issues. Introversion.

A note to introverts

“you can be an introvert and have powerful conversations

you can be an introvert and use writing to disrupt white supremacy

you can be an introvert and show up to protest marches

you do not have to be the loudest voice, but you do need to use your voice”

Layla F. Saad

There were a fair few prompts through this chapter that elicited long responses I highly recommend getting the book but I’ve included a few of the prompts here and my responses.

Staying silent or making excuses, changing the subject, leaving the room when you’re family members or friends make racist jokes or comments.

I am working on this one but have to take care of my mental health at the same time. It feels like a cop-out but I know that if i try and tackle everything at once Ill burn out and be of no use to anyone. Recently I spoke to a family member about why the presence of golliwogs in any form, be it on marmalade jars or pub heads, are a dangerous racial stereotype. I started out this discussion by saying No, not correct, that’s not a good thing to say. Thankfully my husband was there and gave me time to collect my thoughts and enter into the conversation with a clear head. I listened to the family members points, He believes the term came from the word for doll, Golly and Acronym WOG, western oriental gentleman. I took him at his word for this, upon further investigation there seems to be little supporting evidence to suggest Wog is an acronym. I explained that even if this was the origin the representation of black people as grotesque caricatures is incredibly damaging. I’m not sure how much of this he took in but maybe there’s a seed.

On the other hand I have some family members who consistently post racist and bigoted things on Facebook. These are riddled with falsehoods, stereotypes, slurs, half truths and vitriol. I no longer respond to there hate and I have taken to reporting them instead. Maybe this is wrong, if i had the reserves I would attempt to pick apart their arguments and ask why they think something is true, when I have attempted this in the past I have received less than thoughtful responses, parroting of the daily mail. I’ve been told by complete strangers to -leave the past in the past- and received yawn emojis. one good thing is to come out of this is that when i have gone back to the posts I see they’ve been deleted or visibility changed to friends only. Many of the posts I’ve reported have been removed or blurred.

Staying silent by not sharing social media posts about race and racism in your spaces because of the way it might effect you personally or professionally?

Am I doing enough. No

Am I doing my best? For now. Maybe?

I’ve upped my game here, I used to see a lot of my friends add posts to stories or feed regarding BLM and other important social issues such as trans rights and equality. This was information I may not have come across without certain friends in my social media. It was only recently that I realised I could do the same. I am slowly figuring out that my voice is important. If I share important information, petitions, and campaigns within my social circles I can bring awareness to those who would not normally be aware.

Or simply re-posting the posts of BIPOC but not adding your own voice or perspective?

I had not thought about this one, generally on Instagram most users tend to ask you not to add or alter anything from their original posts. I do not feel like my voice as a white woman has much to add to the original work and am only trying to get the words out there to people who may not see it otherwise. I will have to look into this further.

How do you benefit from white silence?

I benefit by feeling secure and safe by not sharing my views with those who might disagree.

Whom in your life do you harm with your white silence?

I cannot name a person I have hurt, but I am sure there have been countless people who have suffered due to my white silence. Those who haven’t seen me as a safe person to be around or were wounded by heavy silence on my part. I need to work on this. My privilege has kept me numb to the hurt I may have caused.

Had to re-listen to the introductory chapter, Self-care, support, and sustainability to remind myself this is not a thing I can do all at once. I knew this chapter would be incredibly difficult but I did not really understand how much of an emotional toll it would take. In the Self care section Saad reminds us this is a life long commitment. not a book, not a few words but something we must strive for every single day.  Saad reminds us to feel those feelings, Pain, shame and guilt, channel them into actions for change. And all the time know what I’m feeling now is a mere fraction of what BIPOC have suffered. My mind has been trying to protect itself. You do enough darling, you haven’t hurt anyone, you don’t have enough power to be responsible. Gentle but firm Saad picks at those excuses and my flimsy shield of white fragility slips away.

I feel weak and strong all at once. A terrifying feeling I remember from when I began my journey to recovery from anorexia. A suffocating weight of responsibility but with slightest hint of a better future. Apart from this time, its not just for me, this time it’s a collective effort to improve the world for everyone. If anyone else is going through Me and White supremacy, or struggling with facing their privileged please let me know I would love to hear your thoughts. As always if there is anything I have written which is in any way offensive or tone deaf let me know, I’ll endeavour to do better.

Are you sure, sweetheart, that you want to be well?… Just so’s you’re sure, sweetheart, and ready to be healed, cause wholeness is no trifling matter. A lot of weight when you’re well.”

― Toni Cade Bambara , The Salt Eaters

Today I wrote 854 words

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