End White Silence

I keep seeing signs here and there in Ithaca with the slogan “End White Silence.” I don’t really know how to go about ending white silence—other than to just not be silent.

So one result is this writing.


2020 was a bit of a bulldozer on my bedrock.  I was never really a politically minded person, but the presidential race seemed to draw out my deepest values and slap them in my face.

As with events such as this week’s storming of the Capitol, the deep double standard of this country is being seen through.  It is a glaring divide, and it is difficult to address at all.  But if we don’t continue to address this as a collective consciousness, we’ll lose the opportunity and capacity to work with what we know.

I want to say that the deep-double-standard of the USA is being white, vs. being-anything-but-white.

I want to say that the deep-double-standard of the USA is being white, vs. being-anything-but-white.  I’m going to try to write this diplomatically; in some ways I feel privileged to understand this because I know what it means in many ways to be white.  Therefore I am a responsibility bearer to ending white silence.  And I know what it means to be not-white as well.

I read this magazine article about a lovely Black fitness coach lady whose work is expanding representation in the wellness industry.  When she was growing up, she attended a private Christian school in heavily segregated Milwaukee.  In the school, “She was one of three Black students—the other two being her sister and brother.”

I told my brother about that sentence in the article.  And I told him that I felt the same way growing up—that it was the two of us as unique students in school, and everyone else.

I felt the same way growing up—that it was the two of us as unique students in school, and everyone else.

One of my good friends believes the conversations on race in the US are often painted in black and white.  They miss out on a lot of subtlety to the discussion.  My brother said all he could really relate to growing up (or even still, perhaps) is plain otherness.

Times have for sure changed since we were children.  But the tender point I want to make today is that I can remember what it was like as a girl, innocently yet ultimately violently believing that what it meant to “fit in” meant assimilating white culture.  Even if I became as white as I possibly could be out of fear or ignorance, it seemed to be the assured way to avoid trouble and “fit in,” though I still had Latina/o/x and Black and Asian friends.

People talk about white supremacy; what does that really mean?  When I talk about “white culture,” I imply (sadly) the unconscious if not active suppressing of everything not-white.  I feel it’s like a fear mechanism and not always understood for what it is.  I feel I adapted to that and intrinsically understood that, accepted that, and embraced that at any early age via social conditioning.

Of course, now, I regret that and think there was something insidious to that all along.  And I think it really fucked with me.

I don’t think white people—whatever that means—are inherently violent and evil.  I am just as capable and qualified of evil acts committed in ignorance.  But hey—let’s be real about this and keep calling it out until just anyone can storm the Capitol without repercussions.

Shayna Grajo