The shame of white silence



Dear Editor:

Dear white people:

I don’t much like the greeting, even though some of my dearest friends are white. Besides it got your attention, didn’t it?

Did you know blacks make up only 1.2 percent of Maine’s population? White people make up 94.8 percent. With that revelation, I suddenly realized many of you, in fact most of you, may not have a meaningful interaction with a black person for days, weeks, months, dare I say years. Think about it. When was the last time you had a conversation with a black person that lasted for more than five minutes?

Oh, I know some of you are saying to yourself, “Good, I don’t need nor want a meaningful interaction with a black person.” But to those of you who would like a more than superficial experience with a black person, read on.

So, in the short space that we have and as a public service, let me put your mind at ease. Black people don’t blame you for slavery, Jim Crow, segregation or most recently George Floyd’s death. I say this because there seems to be a lot of apologizing; in person, on television and on Facebook by white people. No black person blames you for those things.

What we can blame you for is your ongoing silence.

We can blame you for your silence when a friend or family member utters the “N” word and you don’t correct them.

We can blame you for your silence when someone in your circle spreads a rumor about black people and you know it’s not true, or you don’t challenge them to prove it.

We can blame you for your silence when your gut tells you something is not right and you say nothing.

We can blame you for your silence when there is a strong effort to restrict or limit the vote of black people. Those registered Republicans should write a letter, send an email and make a phone call that says you are for “voting by mail.” Let your elected leaders know how you feel.

We can blame you for your choice to remain ignorant of America’s past and present; Google “Tulsa, Oklahoma 1921,” “The Tuskegee Experiment 1932,” “The Anti-Lynching Bill 2020.”

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends,” Martin Luther King Jr. from “The Trumpet of Conscience,” Nov. 17, 1957.

Robert McCollum

Roque Bluffs

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