Never mistake my silence for not caring.
I notice the same stories being shared over social media time and again, so why share them myself? I read the justifiable anger from my friends and acquaintances of color — I bear witness, I acknowledge, I agree, but I can’t really identify, only empathize. The color of my skin (white) allows me privileges that I cannot ever really fully understand. I may face discrimination or injustice in other ways, but my skin color has always offered me protection. As such, we’ll always experience life differently. We can but share those experiences with others and hope that they can also find a way to empathize. This is how common ground is found. But I say finding common ground and not building allyship, for a reason.
I don’t believe in “allyship.” Allies can break the connection when convenient. They can remain silent when they so choose. You can want to be in solidarity with others all you want, but you have to be honest with yourself — when times get rough, will you be treated the same way as the people with whom you wish to be in solidarity with? Will you be one of the few that holds to their beliefs when threatened with grievous bodily harm or death? Or will you then turn to your privilege and turn away from your “allies?”
I think most people would turn away.
But that has nothing to do with my silence right now.
I cannot speak for anyone else, but I know that sometimes I get overwhelmed by what’s going on in the world. There’s the micro, which is what’s happening in my own life — and which is currently without structure and is escalating into a shit show. There’s the micro-macro, which is what’s happening in my social circle — and I’m currently watching friend after friend deal with one stressful situation after another. There’s the macro, which encompasses everything from my town to the universe — and lately it feels like my country and my planet are on their own separate courses for self-destruction. As a highly sensitive and empathic person with severe mental illness, sometimes all of this is just too much to cope with. So I check out, to the periphery of it all. I’m not ignoring. I’m not disassociating. I’m not not-caring or being dismissive. I witness. I feel it to the core of me, and that’s the problem.
All of the pain and fear and anger that are around me, I internalize. I don’t know how not to. If I don’t step back then the feelings translate into self-harming behaviors, which are no good to me or anyone else. I’m no good as a person, as an activist, as the “ally” you would want, if I can’t even be good to me.
All that being said, we should all read On FB Silence Regarding Charleston Shooting by Aida Manduley, because she is writing some real truth.