Apologies for being gone so long. We had a lot going on with planning some events, birthdays, getting ready for speaking engagements and preparing for the launch of our 501(c)(3) (more about that later). We were slacking a bit, plus waiting for an optimal newsworthy event to get back on the wagon. We tried to avoid posting about this, but it’s laying on our diversity-motivated spirits. And while Uncolorblind is not political and does not support or endorse any political party or candidate in any local, state, or national election, it’s pretty hard to ignore the discourse occurring around the current presidential election race. A few candidates have received fierce opposition due to their commentary, and, in recent weeks, this opposition has reached a level where some white Americans, many of whom almost never speak about issues related to racism, sexism, or religious persecution, have broken their silence.
As black women and professionals, white silence is a phenomenon that we have observed and experienced numerous times, especially at work. It’s the same silence that was present in corporations and law firms across America the day after the Charleston massacre. And the day after Boko Haram kidnapped hundreds of Nigerian girls. And the day after the images of a dead Syrian baby who washed up on the shore of a Turkish beach after trying to escape civil war. Or last week when terrorists killed 22 people on the Ivory Coast. For many, white silence is thick, uncomfortable and it makes you feel so very alone when you work at a place where no one looks like you.
White silence causes self-doubt, too. The lack of discussion about injustices occurring around the world against racial, ethnic, and religious minorities almost makes you question your own sanity. Almost. But then you remember that white silence is a privilege that says white people don’t have to think about, talk about, or even analyze anything that makes you feel the slightest bit uncomfortable. White silence is like a magical cape that protects you from reflecting upon and internalizing some of the most hurtful and destructive things happening in our world.
Now, some white Americans are breaking their silence and opposing some presidential candidates who they believe stand for bigotry, racism, and hatred.
Brandon Stanton, founder and author of the Humans of New York blog and best-selling book, recently wrote an open letter to one of the candidates, which began with an honest explanation of why he was breaking his white silence. “I try my hardest not to be political…I didn’t want to risk any personal goodwill by appearing to take sides in a contentious election. I thought: ‘Maybe the timing is not right.’ But I realize now that there is no correct time to oppose violence and prejudice. The time is always now.”
Many celebrities and thought leaders have created and signed a #StopHate petition in a movement to oppose various presidential candidates and “end hatred, fear mongering, bullying, and racism in America.”
Even the Speaker of the House recently spoke out after a presidential candidate failed to disavow and condemn the KKK after specifically being asked if he would reject their support or the support of white supremacists. The speaker of the house clearly stated, “They [GOP presidential candidates] must reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry.”
Breaking white silence is awesome. Really. Because everyone should bear the burden of speaking out against injustice, prejudice, and bigotry.
But white silence has to be broken more often. It can’t just happen when pushed to denounce extreme presidential candidates. White silence has to be broken in the most germane of situations when injustice and prejudice are present, too. We recognize it’s not everyone’s intention to do harm by being silent and that oftentimes mainstream America doesn’t realize that their silence is often doing more harm than the outward expression or examples of injustice, prejudice and bigotry. But that’s why Uncolorblind exists – to help achieve true diversity and bring awareness where sometimes privilege has masked the responsibility that comes with the ability to be easily heard and understood by the masses – or “powers that be.”
Like when your company is hiring for a position and the team mysteriously decides that all of the resumes with “ethnic” names should be removed from consideration.
Or when a racial or ethnic minority is denied a promotion or position because someone was inexplicably “uncomfortable” with their presence.
Or when that same racial or ethnic minority is described as being inadequate or incapable after making the same mistake that you or your cohort made last week, month or year.
Or when compensation decisions are being made, and although no one says it, the men always get a higher raise than the women because they are the presumed head of the household.
In everyday life, and especially in corporate America, there are opportunities to break white silence. Take these opportunities when they come. You lose nothing by calling out injustice and unfairness. And never forget – “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)