Thursday, September 1, 2022

Silence is Violence

Rachel Richardson, a college volleyball player from Ellicott City, was heckled and subjected to racial slurs while playing for Duke University at BYU last Friday night. 

I kept seeing references to this story on Twitter. I thought about how awful it was. But I didn’t make the connection that she was from Ellicott City. Finally it got through to me. 

This is a local story.

Rachel Richardson is from Howard County. She could be your neighbor, or your child’s friend. Maybe she reminds you of your own college children, or grandchildren. 

Of course it shouldn’t matter where she is from. Racism is ugly everywhere. No one should have to experience it. But knowing that Ms. Richardson is from Ellicott City makes it more personal and brings it closer to home.

How do we respond? What should we say? Is there anything we can do?

Often I find myself doing nothing because I fear doing the wrong thing. And that means I remain silent, paralyzed by worrying how I would come across as a white woman condemning racist acts. I don’t know what it is like to have to work twice as hard to be thought half as good. My children didn’t grow up in the harsh light of a white gaze that sees them as either “a credit to their race” or “dangerous thugs”.

But while I remain silent, struggling to find the perfect words, the voices of racism are ringing loud and clear. An example:

She could hear this but she had to tell her coach it was happening? Cell phones in every hand? Duke got beat bad? Her teammates on the bench heard it but not the coach?

They’ve already gotten their accusations trending on Twitter.

I’m going to share some quotes with you from Johnathan Spencer Perkins, Director, Race and Equity at UCLA. They begin with a response to one of his earlier tweets:

@mistersor  (to @JohnathanPerk)

I learned something valuable today from you:

White people treat their anti-racism activism as a hobby that

mustn't get in the way of their day job.

Perkins responds:

Facts. Most white people refer to racism as a

"social cause"


issue they care about. But racism affects ALLLLLLLL the other

social causes..

• sexism? worse for Black people.

• LGBTO discrimination? worse for Black people.

• climate change? worse for Black people.

• disability and accessibility issues? worse for Black people.

I could go on.

Perkins’ words about the incident at the Duke/BYU volleyball game have been burning inside me this week.

IF. you are a white person and a fellow white sports fan is within

earshot, calling a player the n-word, and you DO NOT take action,

THEN.…you are just as culpable and yes, just as racist, as the

person who hurled the slur. white inaction "literally* leads to Black

death, so.

Now, apply this to every example of racism you encounter (not to

mention the racism you don't notice/join in).

If you're white and see racism, you have a DUTY to act. N-word

usage is an extreme example.

Think whispers, glares, all other microaggressions. You must fix all

of it.

He’s right, of course. We must fix all of it. It’s our responsibility. It can’t be just a hobby that won’t interfere with our day job. If you see acts of racism and wonder, “Does it really matter if I say something?” Yes, it matters. 

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