Silence serves White privilege and threatens non-White survival. I will later argue that White privilege benefits White people. But the idea of going through the day with little to no consideration of one’s skin color remains foreign to non-White people. Regarding one’s self outside racial identifiers is a privilege the majority of White people enjoy. This privilege cedes White people a freedom to ignore Black pain as isolated, individualized, and infrequent because it often transpires outside of White sight. Racism inheres a type of social distancing – pre-COVID-19 – in which most White people do not know Black people other than persons in their next narrow circles or domestic service roles. In fact, the Public Religion Research Institute discovered that 75 percent of White people have no Black friends. White people can watch eight minutes and forty-six seconds of Black death and dying – the murder of George Floyd – and easily return to life as usual, while some of us must carry a tragic question into many tomorrows: “Am I next?”
Silence also sometimes helps Black people survive. Many Black people maintain silence to prevent being labeled angry, hypersensitive, and irrational. Black people swallow outrage and offense at daily injustices to avoid jeopardizing their livelihood, to maintain equilibrium, and to protect themselves. The words of Zora Neale Hurston come to mind: “If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.” This silence, too, betrays the ends of justice, crushing the respective, though related, promises of the imago Dei, abolition, and democracy.
From “Silencing White Noise: Six Practices to Overcome Our Inaction on Race” by Willie Dwayne Francois III Brazos Press