White People: To Be Silent Is To Consent

With Thanksgiving upon us, writer Andrew Bigelow is anticipating the opportunities young white folks will have to speak up and respond with accountability to the moment, when silence is consent to white supremacy.

I just got off a phone call with the woman I love. After reading Trump’s First 100 days plan, I panicked and called. Amy is here on a student visa from South Africa and it’s up for renewal. When she finishes school in two years, we had plans to go to Cape Town and visit her mom whom she hasn’t seen in 4 years. Dreams of obtaining a worker visa after graduating now feel far-fetched and complicated as fear of our future together is plagued by questions about whether she will be able to stay. Amy, who grew up in post-apartheid South Africa, tells me how she feels unwanted here as an immigrant and person of color. And now, our first Thanksgiving approaches where we will see my extended family, some who voted for Trump.

I am a straight white male from a lower middle class family, grew up in working class East San Jose, went to one of the wealthiest private high schools in the area for athletics. Now I’m an artist and a community organizer working with families changing the criminal justice system, fighting mass incarceration. 

White supremacy and racism in America are not new conversations. White Supremacy and racism in America is not new, it is common knowledge among my friends and my immediate family. It is common knowledge being in close proximity to the criminal justice system. Communities of color have always known this country as being prejudice, racist, discriminative. It is the white community that made up the majority of Trump Voters and it is the white community that is surprised the most that he won. I try to stay intentional about my privilege. I understand that my experience is not the same as my closest friends, my community, families I work with, not even Amy. But what I do know is love.

So the question I ask myself in this moment is: As a privileged straight white man, what is my responsibility to my loved ones? What is my responsibility to my community? How can I use my privilege and my place in this world to help my community, my loved ones and people around this country who will be even greater targets of racism, discrimination, systemic policies, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia?

The only answer that comes to me is I have to hold my community accountable. Logistically, this means when my aunt says she voted for Trump at Thanksgiving dinner, I speak up. This means when my cousin defends Trump, I speak up. This country has reached this tragic point of electing an openly racist President because the white community does not hold the white community accountable. The answer lies in the white community holding itself responsible for its actions.

Mic.com released an article stating that if only 18 to 25 year old voters counted, Trump would have only won a few states. This means that young white people across the country from around 18 to 30 years old will be at holiday dinner tables with their aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, even parents who voted for Trump. To be silent is to consent.

In reflection of my own relationships, sometimes I feel the exhaustion and sense of hopelessness when attempting to explain the magnitude of what has taken place this past Election Day. People are defensive – defend their choice to vote for Trump or share videos of protests and conflict to prove why Trump is right. The only way I can see hearts and minds change is if someone they love becomes impacted by this outcome. I pray they can learn from me when I tell them this is going to greatly impact people that I love; when “illegal” becomes someone they know, when “work visas” become Amy.

As for myself, all I can do is within my power. I can speak up when accountability is needed. I will further my understanding of my own privilege. I will listen when the experience is not mine. I will love as hard as I can. I will be there at ACJP meetings to organize. I will create art that represents our time. And I’ll keep fighting for hearts and minds.

 

Related Media:
The Dinner Table: The Classroom on Privilege and Racism for White Families Across America

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A DACA Recipient's Horrified Viewing of a Trump Election 

About Andrew Bigelow

Andrew Bigelow is a Hip Hop artist as well as a writer and organizer with SiliconValley De-Bug. Follow him on social media as @HeIsAndrewBigs

This article is part of the categories: Community  / Immigration  / Law & Justice  / Politics 
This article is part of the tags: Accountability  / discrimination  / Donald Trump  / Elections 2016  / homophobia  / Islamophobia  / Racism  / sexism  / systemic policies  / Thanksgiving  / Trump First 100 days  / White Supremacy 

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