For past several months, the racial, political, and environmental discourse has been so burdensome that simply and willfully ignoring it all and retreating into the cocoon of my own life seemed the best option. However, as the celebration of the life of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., draws near I am forced to reflect on his life and ultimately one of his most brilliant quotes
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”
We, my community, have been far too silent. We have invoked our privileges and looked away. Yes, even as a man who is a direct descent of enslaved Africans here on American soil, my privilege must be confronted.
My hope is that by confronting my own privilege, that it will inspire, us start a public fight against bigotry and resist the cowardly approach of private conversation and public silence.
The purpose of bigotry is not just to mistreat others simply because of their existence but to make them feel as though life would be better if they did not exist as they were created. When we act in willful ignorance, we leave the people on the receiving end of a bigotry alone to deal with a community that seems to reject them simply because they exist. She existed as a follower of Islam which is why a large man stood in her face and screamed that she was a terrorist who didn’t belong in his country, in a hospital emergency room where she brought her sick children. They existed as students of color on a college campus which is why the n-word has been repeatedly written on the doors and walls of their campus.
The loneliness and isolation that bigotry creates becomes darker and colder as victims hear nothing but the echoes of public silence.
What is a victim of bigotry to think when the person who could speak up, comfort, or protect them exercises their privilege and turns a blind eye to bigotry? Is this response born out of fear of also becoming a victim of bigotry? Is it cowardice?
Part of privilege is being able to speak out against bigotry and not having to face any consequences of bigotry. If there will be no consequences, then silence is not only betrayal, but more importantly its cowardice, and we must not let cowardice become the status quo.
My biggest fear is that cowardice has become the status quo in Framingham.
The incidents previously described did occur, however we, as a city and most importantly as a community public responded as cowardly as possible.
There was no public outcry, no rally, no march, no demonstration, not even a public statement by public officials condemning any of these acts.
Throughout history, as the world and communities around us, retreated into its cocoon of cowardice Framingham has always stood in its own bravery as a sanctuary.
The wiccans found a place here to worship their religion in peace as their sisters were being burned at the stake.
Enslaved Africans and those who fought for their freedom used our borders as a place in which they could speak out against the horrors of chattel slavery decades prior to the start of the civil war.
The greatest icons of the suffrage movement spoke on our hallowed grounds.
Who are we to turn our backs on such a history of bravery and retreat into cowardice? Why are we choosing to only deal with bigotry only in the shadows as bigotry grows bolder?
Brazen acts of bigotry must be met with brave acts of love.
What if earlier generations of Framingham residents simply asked the wiccans to practice their religion in private?
What if they turns a blind eye to slave patrols as they roam the streets in search of formerly enslave Africans?
What if we asked icons of the suffrage movement to only gather and protest inside the homes and business of their supporters and not in our public.
They did not. Those residents formed a community of the cultivated a spirit of bravery. They spoke and allowed others to speak their truth about a world that needs to be changed, which helped foster that change.
There have not been many instances in which the silence of a community has made things better for the oppressed. Is not that the goal, to make things better?
We voted to make this a city because many of us felt as though we would become a better community as a city than as a town.
As we have done way with our old form of government we must not do away with our old form of dealing with bigotry.
Now as we remember and celebrate the life of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, we must remember and begin to immulate his bravery. This is how he described himself.
“Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.” – Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King.
Now. who are we if we are now too afraid to bang those drums ourselves?
Photo courtesy of 1854 Cycling Company website