We have all felt the sting of being in a situation where we are being attacked, blamed, or assaulted, verbally or physically, and someone you thought was a friend stayed silent – didn’t defend or protect you. That feeling is even worse than the feeling of being attacked.
When I was about 12 years old, a couple of friends and I went out trick-or-treating on Halloween. We were set upon by a group of about 15 teenagers who beat us and stole our candy. One of my friends stayed with me as we fought back – the other ran and hid behind a car and watched. As an adult, I can look back and think about how afraid she must have been, how people have a fight or flight response and try not to hold it against her. But, of course, I don’t – we were kids. I did not, however, forget it. Her silence in our moment of need is indelibly seared in my psyche.
It was not the first time I was abandoned in my moment of need, nor was it the last.
Right now – at this moment in history – we have the opportunity to not hide in safety but to stand up and speak out for those in our communities who have effectively had no voice. It is not enough to passively post black-squares on our social media or throw up a few hashtags to support valuing black life in America. We must do more. Our government and elected officials have had the luxury of remaining in their positions without addressing systemic problems that impact and devalue the lives of black people in America. They have been allowed to remain because of silence. It is not enough for only those affected by unjust laws and practices to speak out – those unaffected must speak out too. It’s the right thing to do. It’s the necessary thing to do. It’s the Christian thing to do. Indeed, the Bible commands us to advocate for those who do not have the power to enact change themselves.
Proverbs 31: 8 & 9
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
9 Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.
We must see the evil, hear the evil, and speak up about the evils of our society or we are doomed to allow them to continue to fester, infect and destroy the “liberty and justice for all” upon which our country professes to be built.
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.