Almost everyone has a distant relative on Facebook whose political views completely contradict their own; it’s a tale as old as the internet. It takes everything in you not to drown their timeline in comments about how wrong they are, how misinformed they are or how you “can’t even believe someone could think like that.”
Every time I return home from school I seem to be scolded for “speaking out” on Facebook. “It’s my civic duty” I respond, to which I get hit with the passively shameful, “you can support things in private you know, you don’t have to publicize everything.”
I hesitate to accept this as the truth.
Can you truly support something in private? If you are an activist behind closed doors are you an activist at all?
The so-called “silent ally” is someone who supports a social, political or any other cause in private but won’t defend their stance in public. There are obvious exceptions to this, such as if it isn’t safe for the person to speak up in their current environment. But, if you’re able to speak up, you absolutely should.
If people turn the concept of silent allies into a physical example, it makes perfect sense as to why silent allies are barely allies at all. Let’s say a coworker walks up to another coworker and starts verbally abusing them. What would help the situation more — sitting there and watching, thinking to yourself this isn’t right, or standing up for your coworker and saying something?
The answer is clear as day, and it’s easy to see that keeping quiet is doing more harm than good.
An essay from Insider Higher Ed discussing microaggressions, casual language that infers prejudice against a certain individual or community, in the workplace explains that staying silent is basically “tacit approval,” and if you’re not actively supporting the victim, you’re passively supporting the perpetrator.
If you’re lucky enough to have a voice you should use it.
If someone you know, regardless of the platform, is saying something hateful or hurtful, speak up. This doesn’t mean being hurtful or hateful back, but being brave enough to call out messages or causes that simply aren’t right moves mountains in terms of letting people know their actions aren’t acceptable.
In addition, it’s possible the person was speaking from a place of ignorance, and using your voice can be an opportunity to educate someone. Being an active ally is important, and speaking in solidarity with those who aren’t given a voice, or backing up the voice of others, is vital to making a change. If the environment you’re in is safe to voice your opposition — or support — voice it.