Speaking up, I can and will do better
If I am to be an ally, my bystander/avoid-conflict behavior must change.
I was taught in my social-justice studies that not speaking up is the same as tacit approval of the behavior.
As we learned from the AIDS epidemic, “Silence=Death.”
My part, when I hear racist, sexist, ableist, any kind of -ist language, is to speak my truth with compassion. Because I am focusing on becoming a better ally, yesterday (Saturday at the Black Lives Matter rally in Lihu‘e) I was met with multiple opportunities to query the speaker(s) about their words. In three cases, I did just that.
In one group discussion that occurred in my presence, I did not speak up. I was not part of the conversation and I chose to let it go on without my input. I knew the people involved and I could have jumped in. Why didn’t I? I am seriously asking myself this morning as I review yesterday’s events.
As always, I ask myself, “How could I have done that differently?” What if, when I overheard the standard phrase, “I don’t see color. We are all the same,” I had said, “I do. I see color.” Yes, we are all human. Our differences in DNA are minuscule. And yes, we are all one, individually expressing the divine in human form. BUT. Here’s the BUT. Our experiences are not the same.
My privilege allows me to go anywhere without fear of police or neighbors harassing or following me, yelling slurs, being afraid of me, judging me, beating me up or killing me. This is the privilege I experience as a white person in the United States of America.
I have occasionally been called a “(expletive) dyke” by strangers, which has created a sense of fear, but it is not my everyday experience. I have felt afraid as a woman in certain situations, and I have learned how to avoid them.
It is not my everyday experience. This is what I have learned today. It is a day-by-day thing, even moment by moment. I can do my best in each moment. I will make mistakes and I can always do better.
Sue Buckley, Kapa‘a