The Problem with Silence

This will not be my normal posts as I tend to share personal posts or book related posts. However this was an experience of mine two months ago. An experience I had a hard time dealing with. I debated if I should speak on it outside of when I got home and posted it on my private Facebook. I was angry. I was disgusted. I was hurt. But after I thought maybe my experience will help someone else.

We are told as authors that we shouldn’t speak up about issues because it is our job to write. Expressing my thoughts are something I was afraid to do because I thought what if I said something that someone else didn’t like and in the end my career or aspiring career will suffer?

The thing is as the last three years have went by with me writing, I have met people and most are good people and then some say thing sometimes say things that say people like me don’t matter. People like me shouldn’t be upset or hurt when there are many things that goes on in the world that says well being a black woman doesn’t mean a thing even when nothing you do fits “harmful stereotypes”.

raceImage from Leslie Mac on Twitter Post

I saw this image floating around a few months ago and it reminded me of the unfortunate situation I had to deal with on public transportation with my daughter, youngest sister and mother. This image was reported, but this image I happen to agree with. Because if you can allow people to do harmful things to others than you too are to blame.

It was my daughter’s birthday. We had a good time. I took her to the bookstore and we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. it was a good day. Laughs, learning new things, and good food.

On the way home we were in the city waiting for a train. We waited for a while actually as we grew a bit impatient when every train but the one I needed decided to come into the station.

Anyway, once the train we needed arrived, we waited to the sides of the door to let the passengers off. There were many of us waiting and being courteous of others. This white woman decides to push through all of us with her shopping cart to get to the one lone seat of in the middle of the train car. Normally, I don’t fight for a seat as it is never that serious, my issue however was she pushed my daughter. She pushed my sister. Shed pushed passed many people one who in fact was carrying his few month old child.

My mother and many of the people who were pushed in turn said that this woman should have said excuse me and to have some manners. Even in a city as crazy and fast at NYC, manners should never be put to the back burner.

The woman’s response was to only come after my mother and my family and call us n***ers. I’m sure you can see by the fact that I blocked out some of the letters was because this was a bad thing to say. At first I thought maybe I heard wrong. So I said “excuse me?” She repeated it with glee etched on her face and a smug look. She got to me. My mother said something first. But, I know that I didn’t revert to my usual ignore. I got angry. Really angry. One, maybe if this was only said to me I would have been able to hold my thoughts in. However, this was said to my teenage sister and my daughter.

My daughter has seen some of the crazy that has been in the world, but she has never been called a n***er to her face. I haven’t been called that to my face. I did have experience with racial stereotypes and with passive racism. I did not even know how to respond at first when she showed me that indeed I heard her correctly.

I started yelling at this woman because I was angry. One many people said this woman was rude. Many! We were on this particular train car with many white people. The only other minority there at the time outside of me and my family was these two Asian women who were sitting near where we stood. I cursed. I told her how dare she think this was okay? How dare she think that being disrespectful in that manner was okay? What I noticed more though was out of all the people who told her to say excuse me, she singled out the black people. My family were targets because we were the ones who were people of color who stood up to her.

Now the same white people who complained about her as well got really quiet. So quiet that I swore I was watching myself on a playback. They knew what she said was wrong. You could tell by the shock on their faces. But they said nothing. They didn’t try to back me up. They did nothing to show solidarity with me and my family. Actually some even looked afraid because I was yelling. My yelling looking at it now wasn’t the right way to respond. I know my response was because my daughter a girl who caused no trouble, who’s exceptional in school was called a racial slur. My sister who never seen something like this in person was called a racial slur. This woman recorded me because I was livid. I have never been that angry in all my life.

If I see someone being bullied, or harassed, or racial slurs are said, I will say something. Why? Because you can’t say we are all the same or that you see no color, and then when the time comes to show solidarity and to be an “ally” all of a sudden you say not a word. Nothing! Nobody came to my defense on that train. I was pegged the angry black woman though  I had every right to be angry. I had every right to be upset.

Once we got off the train this woman gets off says she wants to fight me and my mother and then run to the other train car. Some of the people on the platform saw this as well. Only one said that she was wrong and shouldn’t have said anything, but he whispered this to my family, and did not say this to the woman. The woman who needed to hear this.

After I calmed down and got on the next train to head home, I had to talk to my daughter. First I apologized for my anger. I apologized for handling it the way I did. I explained why this angered me and why we had to work harder because even in this day and age, we can be the best of people, and yet we will still be looked at as “n***ers”.

I know not everyone thinks like this. I know there are people who are unware of the way they think when they see a minority. I also know while there are people who aren’t racist, there are many who are. Many! The last year had shown me just how cruel people can be.

So why did I share this story? You can’t say you love all people. You can’t say that you’re an “ally”. You can’t say you will stand up for people like me, and when the opportunity presents itself then you say nothing. What’s a way to be a true ally of POC. Learn and educate yourself. POC shouldn’t have to do it all the time. If a POC gets weary from having to defend their right to be a POC or their livelihood step in and help out. Step in and say why we won’t tolerate racist behavior.

Silence can be just as deadly or just as bad as doing nothing at all. I hope that this can help people see that in this world we have to be there for one other. Really be there, and not talk a good game on social media. Not talk a good game to close friends. Let your words become actions.

If I happen to lose a reader because of this, well I’m about inclusion for all. If your beliefs put people like me or anyone else in any marginalized group to the back burner or tells us we don’t matter, that we don’t deserve decency, then I’m okay with losing that reader. I will not be silent on wanting everyone to be treated with decency.  We must do better. Period!

 

Until next time,

 

Kay

 

 

 

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