Silence Is Complicity

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I started writing Jo, My Gosh! in 2012 as a teacher in Baltimore. It started out as a care package blog and bloomed into something I never imagined. People who don’t look like me, don’t worship like me, and don’t have the same experiences that I do are part of the Jo, My Gosh! community– this wonderful group of military spouses.

At the same time that I started the blog, I was wrapping up five years of teaching in a predominantly Black high school. As an English teacher, I was afforded the immense honor and pleasure (and I truly mean that) of listening to my students as we talked about literature, history, music, and life. They told me about a world I knew of in theory but had never experienced. They told me about white shopkeepers following them around stores as they shopped, asking them if they had money to buy things, sometimes throwing them out for no reason. They told stories about being intentionally knocked off their bikes by police in cars, about police laughing at them as they picked themselves up out of the gutter and walked their bikes home. They sometimes told me about racism and systemic oppression in the things they didn’t “tell” either. We learned, together, in a crumbling building that showed the priorities (or lack thereof) that state and national leaders had for a predominantly black school in the middle of a city.

Until my career as a teacher, nearly everything I knew about racism–and truly, about people of color– was largely theoretical. I am a white girl who grew up in a white, small, rural area, who went to a white, large, rural university. Other than a few women’s studies classes, I was never really forced to confront my own prejudices and privileges.

But that all changed in Baltimore.

Every night, I was painfully aware that as I drove home, I drove on a highway specifically built to segregate the city and create inequality, across Black neighborhoods that had not a single grocery store or health clinic, to get home to a shiny, nice apartment where I could walk outside without worrying about gang violence or drug dealers and where I was confident that I would not be stopped by police nor seen as a threat by neighbors who did not know me.

Those five years in Baltimore changed the way I see the world, forever. If you’re a long-time reader of Jo, My Gosh!, you’ve most likely read about some of my experiences as a teacher, and specifically as a white teacher educating Black students in a Black neighborhood in a predominantly Black city. So this next bit won’t come as a surprise.

I’ve learned that some of the most basic truths don’t need a lot of fancy writing or wording. They stand on their own two feet:

Black lives matter.

Systemic racism is real.

White supremacy and white nationalism are abhorrent rots in our society.

Silence is not an option. Silence is complicity.

Speaking up in the face of injustice and oppression is not easy. It is uncomfortable, hard work. It can be scary, especially if you feel like you’ve been thrown into the deep end, and it can feel like you’re making mistakes all the time. But it is necessary work that we all must do, white military spouses included. Because the body count of Black people at the hands of oppression and systemic racism is unconscionable and a more painful, heavier, more terrible burden.

I don’t have all the answers and I do not pretend to. I am a middle-class, heterosexual white woman who does not have the experiences of a Black person in America. As a writer, I reaffirm my commitment to listen to, learn, and share the diverse stories and representations of military spouses as I can and where I can. As a leader, I reaffirm my commitment to listening to, amplifying, and lifting up the voices of people of color. I vehemently denounce white supremacy and white nationalism. I will continue to educate myself.

To stay silent is to condone the evil that is racism.

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