Silence is Consent

I passed this sign outside a church ages ago and didn’t ever know what to do with it. In light of current events, however, I’ve been thinking about it a lot.

The truth is, sometimes being quiet is exactly the right thing. I’ve written about that before, how silence can be an incredibly useful and totally appropriate communication tool. It’s very often the best choice when dealing with conflict, but when it comes to the devastating recent events between police and American citizens, staying silent feels, well, kind of awful. Like with most things, knowing the difference and when to do each is the key.

I still don’t really know what to say about it all, except that I’m heartbroken. The killing of Americans because of the color of their skin just makes no sense to me, though I know that it’s nothing new. That it’s the use of video and social media, that’s made it impossible for our society to turn away. The targeting and killing of our brave law enforcement is equally as devastating for me.

How, you may be wondering,  does this fit in with a blog that’s (mostly) about strengthening interpersonal relationship skills? Believe me, I think about relationships and their issues almost constantly, and to me this issue of use of silence ties right in. More specifically, this is about who we are as individuals and our relationship with culture and our larger society. Our identity is completely tied to where and how we fit in, when to speak up and share, and how to be authentic and brave. In general, I don’t take on the specific dramatic and even traumatic current events, but sometimes the nature of what’s happening around us parallels so closely with the hard questions and tough work I ask clients to engage with, that though it’s not easy, I can’t stay silent. And frankly, if I’m coaching others on how and when to be brave, then it really only works if I’m challenging myself to get there also.

To be clear, this isn’t about politics or policy positions or taking sides or any of that. It’s about the sick feeling, that comes from doing nothing while the pace of what the news shows us about injustice accelerates. Of course, I’m aware that as a White person –a person of privilege–in America, the sense of utter helplessness and lack of words feels totally inauthentic.  And as a Jewish person, I’m acutely aware of what can happen when people of privilege or power turn a blind eye.

Over some time now, I’ve been awake to the knowledge that it isn’t enough to be an ally and express support, or sit quietly while other people fight *their* fights. The truth is, and I see this in my work with every single one of my clients whether they are struggling at work, with their families, in intimate relationships, or something else, we simply don’t function in a vacuum or alone in a silo. Eventually, everything touches every person, and dead humans–no matter their color, beliefs or profession–affect us all. I would be lying if I said I knew what more to do or say, I’m frankly still at a bit of a loss, and that’s why I’m actively seeking involvement opportunities to take action. Just because I am white and will never fully get what it means to be something other than white in America, doesn’t mean I have to be silent about it.

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