Yesterday, I wrote a piece in which I asked White People to stop talking and take a moment to listen. I asked them to stop trying to respond to what is happening in Baltimore and to merely take a few minutes to just listen.
This must have been really hard because I got comments about how “this is not a color issue” and “how dividing us is separating us.” I even got some sidebar comments from friends wondering if I was adding fuel to the fire.
My request was not to create a dialogue. It was merely a request from those who appear to have the greatest level of discomfort with the guilt of whats going on to experience a brief exercise to aid them in having a balanced perspective. I never imagined how difficult this simple assignment/task would be – being quiet. But if you think about it, quietness is probably one of the hardest things for us to contend with.
Think back to when you were out with someone and you came to the point in the conversation in which you ran out of things to talk about. There was that awkward pause and uneasiness – that discomfort with silence. That’s when we retrieve our electronic devices, or we move to the next person in the room or we just casually dismiss ourselves and walk away.
Or what about when we are riding in the car with friends or family. We turn on the radio so that we don’t have to talk to one another. We ride for miles at a time listening to the distractions of the airwaves all while ignoring the glaring cloud that may be hanging overhead needing to be addressed.
We don’t know how to deal with silence.
Maybe it’s because we know that silence always precedes the storm. If we fill the atmosphere with enough noise, we can avoid the impending storm. If we talk loud and strong enough, we can drown out the potential tragedy. We can marginalize the root cause. We can make whatever ills that may be more palatable.
Silence scares us.
It scares us because it forces us into the unknown. Silence makes us vulnerable. It opens up our awareness. It allows us to see, to smell, to taste, to feel all that is around us without filters. It leaves us naked and afraid.
Silence puts us on one accord. It frees us of judgments. Imagine, if only we could hear the voices in their purest form.
Then perhaps, maybe we could come together on one accord and have a real discussion.