The Privilege of Silence in the Persistence of Trauma

The Privilege of Silence in the Persistence of Trauma
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As we head toward the weekend, our nation is reeling from the challenging events of the last few days. Our week began with explosive devices in New York and New Jersey, and then, a suspect was detained. It continued with the news that three black people have been killed by police officers -- Tyree King, thirteen years old; Terence Crutcher, father of four; and Keith Lamont Scott, father of seven. We are ending our week with mass protests and reports of rioting.

Many of us feel fear and anger. . . Many of us long for real solutions. . . Some of us are afraid of our own feelings.

And ultimately, this is problematic.Black lives matter more than white feelings.

In the face of racism and state violence, there are more than enough temptations for white people to remain silent. Sometimes, we are afraid of saying the wrong thing and causing more harm. But other times, within ourselves, we are tempted to silence our thoughts and empathy too. Rather than grapple with the reality of the systemic racism, we are tempted to move toward denial and blame. And if we feel inconvenienced by it all -- hearing about it, feeling through it, or acting against it -- we can simply walk away from the conversation. It does not endanger our lives to do so.

And this is a total privilege, because black people and other minoritized communities simply cannot do the same. As a white person, I cannot speak for people of color or represent their full experiences. But I can share some of what I hear.

This is what I want to share today:

While white people choose whether or not to grapple with racism -- at times, fearing their feelings more than the loss of human lives; at times, turning the shields of denial and blame into weapons -- black people live with the threat of continual trauma.

Black people live daily with the threat of continual trauma.

We’re invited to listen, wake up to this reality, and act. Silence is a privilege. It is also a form of violence when it bolsters the very racist systems which continue to cause death, discrimination, detention, and despair.

Let’s listen and be led by black voices directly. Here is a powerful video from KevOnStage:

This piece was first published at Smuggling Grace.

Renee Roederer is an ordained PC(USA) minister and the founding organizer of Michigan Nones and Dones, a community for people who are “spiritually curious but institutionally suspicious.” This community in Southeast Michigan includes people who are religiously unaffiliated (the Nones), people who have left established forms of institutional churches (the Dones), and people who remain connected to particular faith traditions but seek new, emerging visions for their expression.

Please visit Smuggling Grace to subscribe to Renee Roederer’s blog. You can also follow her on Twitter: @renee_roederer.

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