When I was a freshmen in high school, I ended up surrounded by a group of 5 girls who didn’t like me because I was new and must have said something that upset them. They caught me outside the gym where I had tried out for the cheerleading team. I was waiting for my mom to pick me up and had to stay inside until she got there. My younger sister was obviously still in middle school, and I was new, so I didn’t know anyone yet. They pushed me back and forth and one pulled my hair. It honestly sounds worse now than it probably was. The biggest problem for me was that there were at least 20-25 other girls standing around in this lobby and not one said anything about it. They just watched as I started to cry and then went into the bathroom until my mom text to say she was there. I told her I was crying because I didn’t make the team. I, too, didn’t speak up.
All these years later, and I’ve learned a few things. The first is that silence rarely helps anyone. Communication is the magic key to life, marriage, jobs, etc. Learning how to speak up was one of the hardest things for me. I’m an introvert and pretty reserved. I’m not a fan of talking about myself or telling people my problems. The issue is that we cause more harm by being silent than we would by speaking up.
I’m a big Grey’s Anatomy fan (yes, even after all of my favorite characters have been killed off or relocated in Yang’s case) and last Thursday was an episode about a 12 year old boy who had been shot by the police as he tried to climb into his own window because he forgot his house key. He died. Obviously, this is fiction but this happens. 12 year old boys have been shot and killed by the police. By their friends. By another child holding a gun they shouldn’t have access to. It happens. The officers on the show were trained to back their brothers in blue, and therefore maintained that the officer didn’t do anything wrong. Right or wrong, a 12 year old boy died for no reason. I hardly think a burglary (as perceived by the officer) warrants gunfire. The issue is that we don’t speak up. I stand behind our officers when they are protecting and serving. I will not stand behind an officer that shoots an unarmed citizen. I will not stand behind an officer that shoots any human being that is not attempting to kill the officer. I want our officers to protect themselves. I want them to go home to their families each and every night, but I also want 12 year old boys to go home to their families. Police officers are not inherently or generally bad. I don’t think the entire force is out there to kill anyone. I do, however, think that it places some people in power over lives they have no right to take. The only way any of that changes though is if we speak out against this.
Sometimes, it’s easy to get defensive when people throw out words that may seem like an attack, and when we’re defensive, we can’t recognize our own shortcomings. We all have someone to protect in this life, and we want to do that with all our might, but compassion has a very important place in our society. Being able to see beyond your own wants and needs is a learned skill, and it is essential, in my opinion, to being a “good” person. Good and bad are relative terms, but I think there are some clear lines we can draw. Looking out for one another is a good thing to do. Speaking up against bullying, racism, bias, sexual harassment, etc is a good thing to do.
How can we justify staying silent as someone causes another harm or takes their life? There is no justification. We can’t afford to be silent.