What My Silence Taught Me.
Friend, I want to tell you a story.
Back in January, I was heading to my car after the close of Evolve, an annual conference hosted by a women’s entrepreneurs network I am a member of, when one of my friends asked, “Dena, is everything alright; are you okay?”
“I’m great. Why would you ask?” I replied with genuine curiosity.
“Well, you just didn’t say as much this weekend.”
For days I thought about her observation regarding my silence, which was apparently (as well as self-admittedly) not my norm. And after mulling it over and reaching clarity, I shot this text to the founder of the group and creator of the weekend’s programming.
“I feel like part of my own evolution has been to shut up, listen, digest, and really learn. Before, I allowed my fear and need to prove my worth to speak up and fill spaces. But now, I want to be intentional with my words, trust the women leading me, and allow humility to course through my veins.”
This lesson now rings true in my heart and soul as our country watched the events of the last few weeks unfold. Black lives of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd were lost. Systems of injustice were held in place. And the citizens of the United States, but predominantly, the white community faced a choice.
A choice that centers on silence.
As a white woman living in suburban America, this is the choice I believe is presented to me. Will I bear witness and commit myself to growth when it comes to genuinely understanding racism in America or use the divisive tools of diversion, judgment, defensiveness, and silence to avoid my role in the movement to ensure that black lives matter.
These decisions are mine to make. The decision on when to speak and when to listen. The decision on when to engage in conversation or observe and digest information. The decision to risk relationships with crucial conversations or ignore topics to remain comfortable. The decision to allow my actions to speak instead of merely saying or sharing supportive words. The decision to enable nuance and broad strokes to keep me from compassionate and courageous connections. The decision to stick with the status quo or believe in the potential for our country to achieve meaningful and righteous change.
So let me be clear on where I stand.
Holding tightly to the lessons I finally learned back in January; I choose to commit to shutting up, listening, digesting, and learning day by uncomfortable day. I choose to not let fear keep me from showing up with intentionality. I choose to trust the black women and men that have resources to guide me. And I choose to pray that humility will continue to course through my veins as I will surely make mistakes in this growth process.
I choose to be intentional with my silence when it is time to listen, learn, and be led.
I also choose to raise my voice—which might be shaky but is firmly rooted in my white privilege—when I see opportunities to take action on systemic injustice and racial inequality for the black communities and all other people of color. I commit to asking hard questions of myself, leaders, and my very own family to ensure that our conversations include matters of race.
I choose these things because when I think about the world I want to live in, I know that hope is not enough. Action is required. And I believe that silence with intention is action, but silence fueled by apathy is not. I want to know that I have chosen to do my best to live with integrity, as Brene Brown defines it.
“Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; it’s choosing what’s right over what’s fun, fast, or easy; and it’s practicing our values, not just professing them.” -Brene Brown
I’ve made my choices.
But, friend, you will have to make your own.
I invite you to spend significant time in thoughtful reflection and decide for yourself what choices you’ll make. What actions will you commit to and how you could actively participate in ensuring that our country operates from a place of integrity and practices the values that it professed in the Declaration of Independence.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Friend, these are crucial decisions that must not be ignored. And while I live my life from a foundation of grace and non-judgment, I also tell myself and my children, Make good choices. The world is watching, history is watching, and your decisions matter.