This is the first in a series titled, Hope Speaks for Social Justice, written by former Hope student-athletes of color. Their words seek to educate and activate the Hope community in the nation’s quest to end racial injustice.
Lately, if you’ve watched the news, read articles, seen social media, or even experienced social unrest, there’s a great chance you saw, read, or heard the words, “Silence is Compliance.”
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May 30th, I’m bustling down Fulton Avenue in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with two friends. I see red and blue lights swirling in the intersection of Fulton and Division, cars backed up for what looked like a mile each way, and face-masked people filling every remaining crevice of the streets, sidewalks, and landscaping. An incredibly complex sight in the midst of a global pandemic.
By the time I was able to take all of this in, I found my feet settle in a sea of people, my hands gripping the edges of my poster board, and my arms shooting up to display just two of my many declarations for people who look like me: “No Justice, No Peace” on the front and “This is an American Problem” on the back.
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When Christians, elected leaders, law enforcers, health-care workers, colleagues, strangers, and even neighbors, choose to look at Black skin as a threat or of less importance, that eliminates the opportunity for a just society for Black people, further eliminating true peace for Black people. But that side of my sign (No Justice, No Peace), I’m not writing about that.
“This is an American Problem.” So why polarize the topic by making it political?
Almost every family has that rule for get-togethers, be it cookouts or just dinner: don’t bring up politics. Why? Because 1) politics are polarizing, and 2) polarizing conversations are uncomfortable, especially when 3) the conversation is not warranted. My friends, human rights and justice 1) should never be polarizing topics, and though 2) calling out systemic oppression and racism can be uncomfortable, 3) it is beyond warranted. This is not the time – there is never a time – to intentionally not address injustice, oppression, and racism to appease another’s discomfort. Silence is compliance.
Specifically, to my privileged friends and allies, you, too, have the ability to speak truth to those in your circles and influence a change of heart, mind, and action. But it takes a commitment to speak up and out. Speaking up when you witness classmates making discriminatory comments about their Black professor, and speaking out when you see an opportunity to inform and humanize. Words cannot express the disappointment I feel when friends and allies are supportive of racial justice one-on-one, but are nowhere to be heard from when it matters. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. expressed the same sentiment when he said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
The sooner we recognize that this is an American Problem, the sooner we reach the common goal of liberty and justice and peace for ALL. I hope you join me in using your voice for progress and your actions for change.
Author Angelique Gaddy is a 2017 graduate of Hope who majored in business management and communication and played women’s basketball for the Flying Dutch. After Hope, Gaddy earned a master’s degree in sport management at Western Michigan University and worked in athletics compliance at Grand Valley State University. She recently accepted a position with Hope as a regional admissions representative in Chicago.