Part 1: White Silence and Black Deaths

#blacklivesmatter, #Ferguson, activism, agender, ally, Eric Garner, genderfluid, genderqueer, media justice, non-binary, non-binary people of color, solidarity, trans people of color, transgender, white silence

TRIGGER WARNING: police brutality, white silence, racism in queer and trans communities, racism in suburbia

Another grand jury says that there is no possible way a police officer can be guilty after strangling an African-American man named Eric Garner on videotape. The person who filmed the murder, however, has been indicted.

Children are dying, and somehow there is no way, no possible way, that those who are killing them can be guilty. Adults, too, are dying, and although our society likes to think it, there isn’t some arbitrary age upon which guilt settles onto the shoulders of black men in this country. Yet—this is how our “safety” officials act. (At least the UN is looking into human rights violations by the United States.)

I am hurting, and I know that it can be nothing like what many people of color are experiencing right now. In addition to the latest manifestation of state violence in a country that has never allowed humanity for people of color, I am also hurting for my silence, and for the silence of my communities. I am hurting for the people who are saying nothing right now. I am hurting for the people who said nothing until now.

I am hurting for all the times that I have stayed silent in my own immediate self-interest, stayed silent to keep my job or to keep some white supremacist “peace.” Stayed silent because I’m “always” that angry one, because do I always have to bring my interests to our family home, because of that time when my dad asked when I’d disown them because our segregated white suburb was too white for me now that I’d become so high and mighty. (Although sometimes that last one spurs me to speaking more, and louder.) Sometimes I’ve stayed silent out of guilt.

I’m stating these reasons not to cry white tears or to say these are good reasons not to speak when lives are on the line, but because I want other white people reading this to think about their own reasons in the times they’ve stayed silent.

I’ve stayed silent at times even though I’m proud to speak out against this BS. Stayed silent even when I know firsthand how desperately solidarity can be needed.

I am hurting from biting my tongue, from the accumulated responsibility and pressure of time after time letting things slide.

I haven’t always let things slide. No. There are also times I address the big and small microaggressions I see, when I’ve worked on campaigns, when I teach about racism, when I work towards institutional change.

I don’t always let things slide, but there are times that I do. And I can’t tolerate myself for that anymore. I can’t tolerate my communities for that anymore. I’m going to speak out every time I can, and I’m going to push myself to do it more. I’m going to fight back with everything I have.

If you’re white and you’ve been silent, too, for these or other reasons, I am asking you to use what influence you have—your voice—and speak out. If you are uncertain, if you feel you don’t have the right to talk about this—you’re right, you don’t have the right. Not to talk about it as if it is your own pain or oppression. Not to make assumptions about what it is like to live through a collective trauma you’ve never experienced.

But you have the absolute responsibility to speak when you hear injustice, even if you aren’t certain how to defend it or what’s wrong about it. Read more and learn if you are uncertain–and you never should be entirely “expert” on another’s oppression. Amplify the voices of people of color—the varied, beautiful voices that exist out in the world.

Don’t only read and reblog—speak out against this BS in your real, actual life. It’s completely fucked, but people listen to white voices more. So use your voice, not to put yourself in the limelight or to preach your opinions on oppressions that are not yours–but to amplify the voices of people of color who are speaking their lived experiences already, and who are fighting back already.

Because white silence is what’s killing people. More than the few who are directly killing people of color, white silence in the face of injustice is killing people every day.

And it starts in our own communities. It starts in my segregated, too-white hometown that my dad thinks that I think I’m “too good” for. It starts with my queer community (stop with the mohawks and fauxhawks and the appropriated African American vernacular already)!

It starts, too, with my trans community. Gender is not essentially white. Constructions of gender are not essentially white. Talking about shifting out of stereotypically white constructions of gender and into other ones, as if there are no other experiences of gender, is erasure and it is colonialism. Appropriating “sass” is racism. Appropriating so many things that many of us white trans people take on as parts of our gender experessions is racism.

Here is a whole long thread about various examples of racism in the trans and queer community. And, for some people, being trans isn’t their sole or defining experience of oppression. Remember that, if you are a white trans person who is privileged in other ways.

I know that I can’t speak to this intersection really at all (and what I’ve been saying already has come from what I’ve heard other people say). What really needs to be heard more is the voices of trans people of color.

So over this coming week, I’m going to highlight some blogs and organizations for trans people of color, in the hope that it will help anyone reading this blog gain some more awareness about what the specific reality of this intersection of oppression looks like. These folks are super rad, and you may already know of them! If not, I hope you enjoy learning about some fab activists and writers.

In particular, I’m going to focus on non-binary people of color, because I know that their voices are heard even less often, and because so many of you who read this blog are non-binary. But you’ll see some binary-gendered folks on this list too.

I’m thinking back to my early days of gender-figuring when someone was asking on a white non-binary person’s blog for some links to blogs of non-binary people of color, and the blogger responded that they had no idea. Here are some responses! Stay tuned…

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