The Sound of My Own Silence

I am, in my very nature, a people-pleaser. I like for people to like me. Part of this comes from a desire to facilitate trust and confidence in others so they can talk to me openly. Another part is just a simple desire to be liked. I tend to be a peace-maker, a bridge-builder, the one who helps create relationships.

Over the past few years, I have begun to notice a tension between my desire for people to like me and my responsibility to call out injustice. Speaking out is an unpopular activity. We see it all over our newsfeeds—controversy abounds as people argue, call names, and unfriend each other over disagreements on social media.

My education has given me the luxury of typically being around like-minded people with whom I tend to fall in line politically and socially. However, like many others, I have those whose posts make me roll my eyes or cringe. More often than not, I have turned a blind eye to their subtle racism, sexism, homophobia, and general exercise of privilege. But after the events of the past week, I realize my crime.

I am a cis-gendered white woman. Although identifying as a woman comes with a whole bag of struggles, I still wield significant privilege in our society. Last week, many of my friends wrote beautiful, loving posts about how they are here for their Muslim, black, LGBT, and otherwise marginalized friends. I knew I wanted to do the same but was stuck thinking about how in the past I have let those friends down. How I left so much unsaid for the sake of maintaining the status quo relationship with that only-slightly-racist friend on Facebook. How much I wanted to hold my socially political high ground but still hold all my relationships at the same time.

I realized I cannot hold these both in full. One is always compromised for the sake of the other.

All my life, I have held my relationships close and kept up pleasing appearances. I try to keep my Facebook posts honest but generally appealing, even when they are more politically charged. But my marginalized friends do not have the luxury for me to keep this up. They did not have it before and they certainly do not have it now that an intolerant, misogynist racist is about to lead our country. This longstanding current of hatred will not stop if I remain silent. It will not stop if I stay safe where everyone will still like me. It will not stop if I do not call out those who perpetuate this harmful way of thinking.

Hard conversations lie in our futures and I will lose some friends along the way; I already have. To my friends, I apologize for my silence. I cannot continue being a people-pleaser at the expense of those I love. And there is no time to spare in speaking out on behalf of those hate is trying to silence. This is where you’ll find me: organizing, agitating, and resisting.

-Paige Wetzel 

Paige lives in Nashville, where she attended grad school and now works for a local nonprofit. She currently works in job placement services, but is also interested in food justice and educating other white people about the realities of racism. In her free time she enjoys singing in a local chorus, baking, and teasing her cat.