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The Legacy of White Silence

Updated: Oct 15, 2020

By: ShakaJamal and Amira Mensah, Producers and Directors of Voices of the Uprising Series

To our ancestors who still have not received justice for the heinous acts of terror committed, we dedicate this film to you.

Voices of the Uprising Part II: White Silence, recently produced by Homeless Children’s Network, exposes the centuries-long impact of silence and urges viewers to boldly speak out against all systems of racism.

The film features horrific photos of the dehumanization of Black people. In the making of the film, we discovered that images of lynchings were used as postcards and distributed throughout the country by the US Postal Service. In a similar manner, videos of Black men and women being murdered are shared on social media platforms and aired on national news outlets.

Historically, crowds of white people could be found surrounding a recently lynched Black body. Although some were enjoying themselves as if they were at a family gathering, fair or circus, some in the crowd observed quietly. The silence practiced then has been passed down through generations. Many of their descendants are practicing the same violent silence, while descendants of the victims continue to fight for justice and equality.

As Black filmmakers this film is as much about uplifting the story of our people, as it is about revealing the impact of white silence and racial terrorism.

In this country, cultural norms and social constructs are governed by white supremacy. Individuals and groups of white people who hold power within this system are the ones whose voices and privilege can ignite change more readily than anyone else.

The deafening silence that accompanies lynchings, racial terrorism and systemic oppression comes from the only people whose voices seem to matter in this society. White silence has been immortalized through centuries of racism and upliftment of white supremacy.

What is even more appalling than Black bodies hanging from trees, crushed under knees and infixed with bullets are the people who say nothing as they witness these acts occurring daily. This privilege can not be underestimated or overlooked when it comes to its impact on human rights and the liberation of Black people in the United States and all over the world.

In some cases, staying silent can seemingly be an act of neutrality and maybe even fear. In matters regarding systematic oppression and racism, staying silent is an act of negligence and all too often violent complicity. White silence is a major contributing factor as to why Black people are enslaved by the prison industrial complex, experience land and housing segregation and suffer healthcare inequality.

A moral white voice can help change laws that have kept Black people in neoslavery since the Emancipation Proclamation. A moral white voice can stand between a police officer and an unarmed Black person who is being unjustly targeted. A moral white voice can influence their own white community to simply be better human beings.

As we call for liberation, history will remember who among us stayed silent.


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