Thursday, June 4, 2020

Between Speech and Silence. . .

Just to say that I am here, listening and reading and watching in horror and hope, as I know you are. I just watched and listened to John Boyega's impassioned speech to a huge crowd in London's Hyde Park after watching and listening to Chimamanda Adichie on Instagram. Following links and posting black squares and then changing their hashtags because they were obscuring other important messages and then finally taking the black squares down because I couldn't tell anymore what response was appropriate.

And then watching our Prime Minister, Trudeau, pause for 21 tense seconds, when asked to comment directly on Trump's actions. . . Those 21 seconds have been interpreted in so many ways in the hours since, that silence echoing and echoing. They have been fodder for his opponents, but I'm not the only one who has read their eloquence.

Even if I were the only one, I tell myself, the possibilities of that silence -- and more, the absolute necessity for it -- resonated so forcefully, so immediately within me.

I think the vehement noise of these protests against the world is a terrifyingly beautifully, and I hope violently rendering, noise. But I need space and silence to discern my best contribution.

Even as I write this, I begin stretching my thoughts into explanation and rationalization. I identify a wish to defend my intuitive wish (need!) for silence against potential charges of political quietism (not from you, I know, but there is an understandable imperative for action, for striking while the iron is hot, and I have read many impatient, chiding, even shaming comments all across our digital communities).  I'm not going to do that, I've decided.

I'm going to sit in the silence and the defensiveness and the anger and the sadness and the horror and the hope. . .  and do my best to listen and discern and witness and act.

My friend Sue -- at High Heels in the Wilderness wrote the kind of post I'd like to have been able to write for you today. . . I think you'd like it. . . She quotes my recommendation of Ibram X Kendi's How To Be an Anti-Racist. . . a very good starting point for sorting out your response to this crucial historical moment.




14 comments:

Sue Burpee said...

Ah, Frances, I wish I could write what you write. I write stories; you write poetry, my friend.
I am a little shell-shocked by the flurry of emotional comments on my post, which was supposed to be about how one white woman tries to find something useful, and honest, to do during this troubled time. Some comments defend Donald Trump at length. And then reply to the comments of others. Somehow my message has been hijacked. But I am stepping away for a bit. Reading your post. Then I think I will have a nice cup of tea, read my book, think about it all a while, and decide what to do.
Thanks for the link. xo

Lisa said...

Said with your usual grace, depth and thoughtfulness, plus more. Thank you. There's as much need for quiet and thinking as there is for speaking out with passion. We're all going to act according to our beings, and when that is in good faith and clear morals, it has to take us in the right direction, even if we wind about a bit.

Janet said...

I read Sue's excellent post this morning and went back to read the comments. It makes one feel that one can hardly say anything without the words or intent being hijacked. And you both write and think more clearly than I..

I feel similarly to you, Frances; I am so horrified by the way things are going I can only process this in stillness. My 30-something daughter is all about witnessing ,doing and protesting, and I just feel I have seen too much of that over my years and where it leads... So often to is nowhere...

And to think that this time last week we were all talking about Trinity Bellwoods Park

Madame La-Bas said...

It is a wise and thoughtful person who pauses when asked a difficult and emotionally loaded question. I've been thinking about what racism sounds like and looks like in Canada. A black United Church minister spoke about feeling like "a guest at the table" rather than a member. Our minister just reposted last year's Black History Month sermon. In the 1930's prairie churches recruited for the KKK. I talked to my husband about how and when we allow a person's ethnicity to affect us. I read Sue's blog and listened to Chimamanda on Instagram yet I can not start to understand how black Canadians feel. All I can do is to try to learn more.

Carolpres said...

Thank you for this, Frances. I think stillness, as long as it's not avoidance (and we all know the difference) is an important part of coming to terms with what we need to do going forward to create a more just and equitable world. I found Trudeau's silence incredibly powerful - I'd rather a thoughtful pause that the blather we're subjected to here.

I've downloaded How to Be an Anti-Racist and am looking forward to digging in - while I like to think I'm a good ally I know there's so much more I can do.

Sue, I'm sorry your very thoughtful post got a little hijacked today. I was saddened that so of your readers entirely missed the point, but that seems to be going around.

materfamilias said...

Sue: I was surprised to see those comments on your post by readers I'd never noticed there before -- for that very reason, I'd have been tempted to delete them. Generous of you to leave them there -- and I know your regular readers see your thoughtfulness and generosity and got your point, which was a worthy one. xo
Lisa: Thank you!
Janet: Ha! I had to Google "Trinity Bellwoods Park" -- we're a big country, aren't we? ;-)
Mme La-Bas: Given how widely you read, I suspect you already have considerable empathy and understanding of Canadian racism. My teaching syllabi always included readings that helped raised students' awareness of our racist history -- and its continuing contemporary manifestations. The written work has been there for decades, and I hope the reading and the listening will really begin in earnest now.
Carol: You're welcome, and thank you. I'm glad to know you saw that silence as powerful as well. I read yesterday Duchess Meghan's comment that "the only wrong thing to say is to say nothing" regarding George Floyd's murder, and I take her point. And yet. . . . Might be true for her, but there are surely people whose words on the topic we do NOT prefer to nothing. Especially one whose Twitter account is, well, you know what I'm talking 'bout. . .

belle said...

I admire your restraint; silence can be far more powerful, and I suspect more frequently leads to concrete action. We do not all need to speak; we all need to act.

Marily said...

Thank you, Frances, and you, Sue, for articulating my current state of mind. Maybe if everyone held back their opinions until they spent time listening, learning, and reflecting, we might all be in a better position to alleviate the pain of those who suffer from systemic racism and sheer ignorance.

Mary said...

Active listening is not passive, but it is all too rare these days. Gather information from credible sources, such as those you mention, and then act in ways that furthers understanding and makes for real change.

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez said...

You write so well, and your thoughts on the horrible things that are happening now are valid and vital. I'm still thinking of the 21 seconds of silence of Prime Minister Trudeau. This is a time when the USA needs a leader who will bring people together rather than encourage divisiveness and foster more violence.

materfamilias said...

Belle, Marily, Mary, Mona: Thank you for your comments and your understanding.

Linda said...

Thank you for your honest post, Frances. At this time there seems to be so much pressure to be seen to do the right thing publicly. Which then turns out to the the wrong thing, as far as I can see from negative reactions to posting black squares, saying certain well meaning things and on and on. I was horrified at the virulence that broke out on Instagram, which is normally a relatively sane space. I've been puzzled by accusations that posting/saying/doing nothing at this time is complicit with racism. Why can there not be a space for personal reflection, examination, educating, discussion with those in our personal circle?

Mamadoc said...

Love it..poetical, erudite

materfamilias said...

Thank you! So kind...

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