I was taking the streetcar when an incident happened that truly rattled me. When using public transportation, I have made a habit of speaking to the streetcar drivers as they have really unique stories. I found out that my driver was from India and loved cars. During our trip, he announced on the microphone that there was going to be a diversion and the route would have to change. A passenger screamed out at the top of her lungs “I don’t understand what you are saying because you are not speaking English properly. Learn how to speak English properly before you decide to become a driver!”
I was shocked and I looked around to see if anyone else was reacting to this the way I was. I saw looks of disgust and horror. But what did I hear? Silence. No one said anything to this woman. Nothing.
So I looked at her and said, “What you are doing right now is so rude, disrespectful, and ignorant. You and I both clearly understood what he said.”
The passenger shouted at me. “It’s not my problem that these people can’t speak English properly, so screw you.” She exited the streetcar.
It is easier to be silent. It’s not your problem and it’s not your issue, right? But the reality is that silence speaks. Silence is a powerful weapon and is a sign of acceptance. It is the beast that allows acts of violence, ignorance, and racism to be seen as acceptable behavior in our world.
It is so seductive to say nothing when something wrong or offensive happens. You bulletproof yourself not to care because you have your own life to think about. But, silence is not the answer. It just allows ignorance to be tolerated.
What difference can one person make? Why should an individual disrupt their WhatsApp conversation or video game to help someone that is facing an act of ignorance?
Because every moment matters and every action matters. If each of us decided to speak out against acts of ignorance big or small everyday, these acts would not be seen as socially acceptable.
The worth of a human being is not dependent on their status, car, suit, bag, body type, or job. Our worth is dependent on nothing because we are born worthy. Every single human being is enough as they are, simply because they are here. So no one is deserving of racism, ignorance, or discrimination. No one.
Silent and inaction hurts every single time. We can read articles, speak about the importance of tolerance, retweet quotes about peace all we want. But the truth is that if we don’t speak up when we see injustice in front of us, we are creating space for intolerance to grow and thrive in our society. When we stand in our truth and speak out against injustice, we are doing our part to make our communities more tolerant of different peoples, opinions, cultures, and ways of being.
So when you see something that doesn’t feel right, SPEAK UP! If something doesn’t feel right, address it! If you feel like you would put yourself in danger by being involved, call security or someone of authority to provide assistance. In any situation we have a choice. Let us choose to stand up when we see injustice and intolerance. By standing up for the world we want to see, we are taking one step closer in the present moment towards a better tomorrow. Change happens one step at a time and it starts within each one of us.
Silence creates the perfect environment for ignorance and intolerance to flourish. We can always choose to choose. In this moment, in this time, our power is in our choice. Let us choose to use your voices. Let us to choose to stand up against intolerance. Let us to choose to not allow silence to be our answer.