Living in a small, rural town in Northern California with an overwhelmingly white population, it can be challenging to find meaningful ways to support the Black Lives Matter movement. The Wear Out the Silence campaign provides a welcome opportunity for me to increase dialogue and end silence about racism with friends, neighbors, and community members through the simple act of wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt every Friday.
As a white woman, I am aware of the privilege afforded me by my skin color. Rather than deny or minimize this, I am interested in leveraging it to speak with other white people about racism and privilege. It turns out that whiteness is an asset that can and should be used to effect change by ending silence within our own communities. Living where I do, there is no shortage of opportunities to speak with other white people, but the topic of race rarely if ever comes up in my daily life. Wearing my Black Lives Matter t-shirt spurs conversations that would otherwise go unspoken.
As Kayla Monteiro recently wrote, “When you are already adorned in privilege and choose to sit on the sidelines, leaving a marginalized group of people to fight for themselves, you are contributing to the problem. In that moment, nothing is louder than your refusal to speak. As a white person, you have an opportunity to speak and move in spaces that my voice as a black woman won’t reach. Use this power and fight for us. Shying away from conversations that make you uncomfortable is coming at the expense of our lives.”
The Wear Out The Silence campaign allows me to do just that in my daily life. Speaking out on my own Facebook page and with my friends has become an echo chamber. When I wear my Black Lives Matter t-shirt to the grocery store and to drop my kids at school, it provides me an opportunity to engage in dialogue about race throughout the day. I am boosted by the supportive nods from allies but, more importantly, I welcome the conversations with people who tell me they don’t support Black Lives Matter, or who maintain that “all lives matter”.
These statements allow me to engage in dialogue and to offer context and ideas that have the potential to shift beliefs and opinions. Of course, the reality is that some of the conversations I’ve had were uncomfortable at best and disheartening at worst, but that’s simply part of the deal. My discomfort does not outweigh the need for, and potential benefit of, continued dialogue and discussion.