Racism, BLM and why silence is compliance

Joy Nath considers why we aren't speaking out, and how that can be harmful

Joy Nath
2nd July 2020
Image: Empire Magazine on Twitter and Joe Molander
There are so many reasons why many of us are not posting or talking about the elephant in the room right now. But here is why we need to talk. Why we need to post. Why we need to learn and educate. All of us. Because all silence is compliance. 

We need to keep the momentum going and keep putting on the pressure. We need to keep engaging people and bombarding people with information until everyone is forced to pay attention. That’s why everyone needs to keep posting so this feels like a movement, not a moment. We can’t allow this opportunity to slip away. When the posts stop, people will go back to ignoring. We can’t let the conversation about racism to just ‘blow over’ when it’s barely began. 

Silence that comes from ignorance is harmful: if you can afford to ignore racism, it’s because you are privileged. You’re not affected by the issue, so you don’t care. 

There are others who do care but are being silent. You may have your reasons, but you’re doing more harm than good. Let’s look at those reasons, and see what’s wrong with them.

“Enough people are talking and posting about it already”

When activists say they need everyone to talk and post, they mean everyone. It’s never going to be enough until it’s everyone. Some people will get away with ignoring racism unless they are bombarded and forced to listen and pay attention. 

“I feel like a bad person”

Use your guilt. Let it empower you, then empower minorities. Do better. Be better from now. 

Saying sorry for things you’ve done or allowed is good. Acknowledging you were wrong is so important. But no-one needs to hear about how much of a bad person you feel. Self-loathing or feeling sorry for yourself is not going to change anything. Don’t let other people make the mistakes you made. Educate them, talk to them and post about what you’ve learnt; there will be many more who haven’t learnt those same lessons yet. 

“I’m trying to do the work quietly”

Social media plays such a huge role in the majority of our lives, so the harm this one does is immeasurable. Most people get their news from apps such as Twitter, and they use social media for entertainment and to relax. People spend hours on their phones. If everyone was posting about the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, those who are ignoring would learn something sooner or later, without even trying. Those who’ve just been ‘too busy’ to notice will start to pay attention (‘too busy’ is also a terrible excuse, by the way). This excuse is even more damaging when you have a big following or large group of ‘friends’. If you can post a picture of you chilling in your garden but not facts or resources about BLM, think about why this is. 

“I don’t want to say the wrong thing”

We are all learning. Making mistakes and saying the wrong thing is completely fine: at least you’re keeping the conversation going. We are also all unlearning. Unlearning the prejudices that have been instilled in us by systemic racism and the racist culture we absorb. Read, watch, listen; whatever you do, learn. And then talk about it, and post about it.

“Nothing’s gonna change”

If you just get one more person wanting to learn more or question their beliefs or ask more questions, you’ve done a good job already.

“I want to stay out of politics”

This is not a political matter, but a humanitarian one. People are asking for equality, a basic human right. Even if this was a political issue, wanting to stay out of it when people are dying is heartless.

You might be worried about negative replies in the comments on your posts, or in your DMs. But do you really want people who refuse to listen or learn - and just want to argue - in your social media circle? Do you even want them in your life? Being able to sit comfortably and ignore BLM posts is a sign of your privilege. You need to get uncomfortable. 

“I’m being made to feel like the enemy because I’m white”

Stop taking it personally. Talking about racism or white privilege is not an attack on white people. By saying someone has white privilege, we are not saying that their life has been easy. We are saying that their race hasn’t made it harder. You might be quiet because you don’t want to offend others or make others feel guilty. Maybe you’re angry because you feel like the movement is making you the enemy, but white people are not the enemy: racism is. Understand this, and then help others understand. Minorities are tired of educating others and shouting to get their voices heard. Use your privilege and power as a white person to highlight these voices. Help others who might be feeling angry or upset to understand that they are not the enemy.

By supporting the BLM movement, you are not attacking white people but acknowledging that society does not treat everyone equally. You need to realise that we are all on the same side. BLM isn’t ‘white vs black,’ it’s anti-racism vs racism. 

“I’m just waiting for things to get normal”

Talking about racism is the new normal. Don’t get left behind. 

No-one’s asking you to exclusively post about racism and BLM and forget all else, but a couple of posts here and there won’t go amiss. People notice if you’re being silent right now. On Blackout Tuesday, my feed was flooded with black squares, but I’ve not seen the same for posts containing statistics and resources. Why is that? If you were willing to post a black square, why are you so scared of posting useful statistics and resources that people can use to learn from? Because you’re treating this as if it’s a trend when there are lives at stake. Posting a black square does not make you look cool, and posting racism stats and resources does not make you look weird. Some of us need to understand that. 

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