There are different types of silence at a moment like this. The conspicuous silence of people who care more about being marketable than being “political”. The forced silence of those who want to do the right thing but are frozen with the fear of what could happen to them in their homes and their communities. And then there’s the stunned kind of silence, the silence of the helpless, of people who don’t know what to say or do because the thought of a solution to the problem only just occurred to them.
I’ve spent the last two weeks doing more circulating of Black voices than that of my own. I’m white. I don’t know shit and it’s very difficult to run to Twitter and talk about writing or Chinese television or funny things my kid has said when my country stands on the precipice of a revolution none of us are emotionally prepared for. Weeks of fear and isolation in a near-nationwide quarantine has sapped us of our energy and mental health but the moment is now. We’re watching scenes from major cities that look more like what the United States warns us about in other countries. Insurrections happen over there. Where? It doesn’t matter. Just not here. Certainly, the President of the United States would never have to cower in fear from his own people, in a bunker constructed for a worst-case scenario. And if that happens, what should we do, as proud, free Americans? Vote, of course!
Vote! Vote in a system controlled by the very people who benefit most from it! Vote, because if you’re lucky, yours will be one that counts. Probably not, but you’ll never know until you try! The system has been stacked unfairly against Black voters in an effort to protect white supremacy. Of course, people are fighting back. Why wouldn’t they? No ordinary citizen truly has a say in what happens to them, to their lives, to their property, to their liberty. A whim and a phone call pitted the United States military against the citizens who allegedly control this democracy. A whim and a pen stroke could return the country to slavery and internment. All while the people we were encouraged to vote for sit back, wring their hands, and pretend they never had a hand in crafting the laws and policies that have broadened every gap, political, economic, and racial between Black people and white people.
There’s another kind of silence: the one where you know that your rage and your heartbreak are not central to an issue. Where you’re quiet because you know your voice isn’t necessarily helpful. The one where you fret that you’re not doing enough, out of fear of doing too much and causing harm. The fear of burdening an already suffering people with well-intentioned nonsense. A fear that comes from the desire to do good but also a desire to look good. I don’t want to succumb to that. I don’t think anyone wants to do that.
Rather than try to express my own feelings on the recent slayings and the brazen, homicidal lawlessness of police everywhere now that they’ve been set off their leashes, I’m going to keep RTing Black voices and smarter people than me over on Twitter, where I have more of a reach. And I’m going to give you, the rest of Trout Nation, the choice of how the blog moves forward from here. It feels very much like the days after 9/11; when are we allowed to do normal things again, without diminishing the hell we’re in? How much distraction is okay before it lulls us back into a state of submission? Do you want to see updates here or would you feel wrong about it? Would it serve as a temporary respite from the new or would it hurt or seem as though I’m pushing the importance of this time to the backburner? How do I go forward here without making it seem like I’m trying to nudge everything back to “normal”? I would feel guilty wondering about these questions but they’re near-universal among creatives of all races right now. Aside from white supremacists and privileged white anarchists, nobody wants to steal focus from the war being waged against justice in the streets nightly. Nobody in America knows how to live with the open acknowledgment that we are a broken nation and have been since July 4, 1776. Even for the people who’ve known this, having it in the air all around, the topic of every conversation in a year when an entire country burned, a pandemic swept the globe, and our president was impeached is a surreal experience. And the year isn’t even half over.
I’m stuck in the “please control your white rage, Jenny, this is not about you and your seemingly racially-inherent, socially conditioned inability to see any solution beyond violence” type of silence. I’m angry. My desire to express that anger doesn’t help. It’s just not constructive for white people to be angry because we’re the ones who did this. And I don’t know how to fix it. What I do know is that Black Lives Matter, Black people matter, Blackness matters. The system must be taken apart and reassembled from the ground up. And the work should ultimately be the responsibility of the white people who caused the problem. But again, I’m one of those white people and let me tell you: we don’t know what the fuck we’re doing because we’re still routinely surprised by the police brutality that we willfully ignore.
Denial is a dangerous, dangerous weapon.
This is all exceptionally disjointed and grim. I’m aware. Consider yourselves lucky; I’m not as in love with stream of consciousness writing as I was in high school. But while I have exactly zero answers and nothing to add that hasn’t already been said better by someone with more life experience than mine, I want everyone here to know that Trout Nation isn’t a place for fascists. It isn’t a place for violence. And it’s a place where Black Lives Matter is not a political statement. It’s a statement of fact.