Break the Silence

Silence. Around the holidays, silence is often equated with peace: peaceful nights, peace on Earth, silent nights, and heavenly joy.  This holiday season, however, silence isn’t peaceful; it’s a dangerous form of consent.

As an introvert, I’m not the first to jump out of my seat to complain about silence. But when the silence is a response to human rights issues, then I have a problem with silence.

Whether it’s in response to racial inequality and police brutality, marriage equality, or women’s right’s (just to name a few), our campus has been pretty quiet. Yes, small groups of students and faculty have been taking action in response to recent events, but as a whole, it’s been too quiet, Tigers.

And our silence isn’t, I hope, an intentional “consent” to these issues. It stems from various sources. We may feel uncomfortable talking about these issues, and choose to stay quiet. We may fear being reprimanded by faculty or administration, so we choose to stay quiet.  Or we may feel overwhelmed and helpless when facing such issues, so we choose to stay quiet.

But the choice to remain quiet is a privilege. These issues are all of our issues. If we deny each other the opportunity for open, healthy discussion, we are consenting to these issues.

So what can you do?

Reflect. Look inside yourself. College is a time for reflecting and developing yourself and your beliefs. Do some mediation, yoga, journaling, whatever. Talk about these issues with your roommates, close friends, family, or faculty. Conversation can help you reflect on what you believe. Learn who you are and where you truly stand on these issues. Be comfortable with who you are and voicing your opinions.

Educate. Educate yourself and others. Understand where “isms” come from. Racism. Sexism. Ableism. Ageism. Etc. Read. Read. Read. Watch the news.  History is important in understanding today’s problems and future solutions. Don’t be uniformed. Sure, you’re going to make mistakes when you first start having conversations, but that’s ok. Be open to education. Be a listener, be a learner.  If you are well-informed, reach out and start those possibly uncomfortable conversations with those who aren’t as informed. Throw hesitancy to the wind.

Respond. You don’t have to do something huge. It can be as simple as transforming how you use social media. Replace those selfies and BuzzFeed quiz results with news stories, discussion-starters, and social justice community event invitations. Get involved on campus. Get involved in the community. Are you going home for the holidays? Then start a conversation with your family or friends. They might disagree with you, and that’s okay. Having open discussions is healthy, and it’s good for the heart and head.

As members of higher education, we have a social responsibility to respond to these issues.  And our administration and faculty are here for you. Following last Friday’s #DieinTU, Acting President Timothy J.L. Chandler issued the following statement:

“What better place than an academic community for this meaningful and essential dialogue to take place. It is here that our students are provided the opportunity to broaden their hearts and minds by sharing, listening, and learning from each other’s experiences. As educators, it is our duty to listen and offer guidance to them in the most productive way possible.”

Create noise. Break the silence.



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