The problem with staying silent

Sunday, 7 June 2020

“Silence is violence”. These three words were written on one of the placards I saw in the Black Lives Matter protests this week. Start typing “silence is…” into Google and the suggestions you are given show this isn’t a new sentiment; Silence is… compliance, betrayal, consent, deafening…

All these phrases, all on the same theme; by staying silent on the topic is an acceptance of the way things are.

It’s easy to forget this. Or to not feel the truth of this. Is silence really compliance? It’s become relevant to me in a new way in the last six weeks. What is being experienced by Black Communities is on a completely different level to my month and a half, but it has helped give me a new understanding, and level of empathy…

Last month I was due to marry, co-vid has pushed our wedding date into limbo, and with that a whole load of other complications. Many bits of the UK are beginning to get moving again; schools are slowly reopening, businesses are adopting a lot of new social distancing measures to get back going, and MPs are gathering to vote on things. WIth this all these restrictions lifting, all the information about getting married has vanished from the UK government website, originally the suggested date was 1st June, this has gone. There is no information, there is no transparency on what government is doing. While I hope that there are working groups being set up to handle this, the silence I hear from the government makes me think that they don’t care about marriage; it’s just another social gathering.

I was hoping to see lots of articles from the national church, but the Church of England website just states that weddings can’t happen. And I’ve yet to see anything from other denominations, or Christian organisations. I’d love to hear how they are working to show how a wedding of five people (the couple, a vicar, and the two witnesses) can be made to work with social distancing being observed. But I haven’t seen anything. I’m convinced that these organisations do care about marriages. However their silence feels that they are giving their consent, and that silence hurts.

And that’s the kick. That’s a part of the sentiment behind these placards. Silence on a topic is so often perceived as apathy towards to topic… And perceived apathy hurts.

What is being experienced by the Black Community for years is on a completely different level to what I have felt. The hurt is deeper, the hurt has been going on longer. And all I’ve had is a taste of silence, not the being pulled over by police, not the murder of my friend or family, or the many other ways that this is displayed. The injustice being highlighted by the Black Lives Matters movement matters. The injustice is significant. And it isn’t a ‘US problem’, this is as much as everyone problem as covid-19 is. Keeping silent gives the perception you just don’t care.

I’m not saying that you must write a blog post, attend a march, or post a black square to Instagram. You can do that… but that isn’t the list that you’re limited to.

If you care about something you talk about it.

If you care about something you want to understand it more and ask questions.

If you care about something and want to make a difference Jesus says start with your own heart and life (Matthew 7v1–5).

My resolve this week has been to ask people how what they have been seeing in the news and social media has been affecting them, and then letting the conversation run. It has been challenging, illuminating, and revealed a lot about the hypocrisy my own heart that needs to get fixed.

This issue with staying silent is that your silence hurts.

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