Opting Out is Not an Option

By Madison Butler

Our Blackness is not a political statement however the fight for social justice is inherently political. Racism does not care which side of the political spectrum you sit on, it does not care how straight your hair is or well you assimilate into white culture. The fight to stay alive transcends political spectrums.

Over the last year, we have watched companies try to “opt out” of the conversation around social justice. These same companies claim to be advocates for diversity, equity and inclusion. Their is privilege in being able to opt out of the conversations that make you uncomfortable, there is privilege in being able to look away grief and pain.

We do not get to “opt out” of being Black. We are Black every day, no matter where we go. My Blackness often precedes me, it is the first thing you know about me. We do not get to opt out of the pain, the fear or the trauma. Living in America as a Black person has always been traumatic, over the last few years, that trauma has been amplified.

We cannot allow organizations to turn away from the discomfort of knowing they uphold systems that hurt us. Suppressing the voices of Black people and Black pain further upholds white supremacy. Trauma is trauma, no matter how and where you experience it, work included. Not only do organizations have the responsibility to protect their employees and create environments where they can thrive, they have the power to change the narrative- and they should.

May is Mental Health Month, and instead of assessing how they could support their Black and AAPI employees during this time, some organizations were plotting on how they could silence them. We all deserve spaces where we can speak up about our trauma and confront it if we choose. When we silence our employees, we protect their abusers, we protect the people in our organizations who cause harm. One in four Black employees report discrimination/racism at work- and that’s just the one’s who feel safe enough to report.

Too often Black people are expected to be resilient and strong because it protects employers. We are expected to hide our emotions, our experiences and trauma for the sake of staying employed. We are conditioned to believe that a paycheck is an exchange for our silence.

We deserve to grieve out loud.

We deserve to exist out loud.

We deserve to be safe.

We do not make the world better by turning a blind eye to the things that make us uncomfortable.

Organizations and leaders have a responsibility to look themselves in the mirror and confront the monsters that make them uncomfortable.

It is not enough to fake empathy and post a Black square.

Black people do not need more allies filled with air and words.

Too often allies offer nothing besides affirmation.

We do not need more affirmation, we know we are magic.

We need people who show up when the camera stops rolling.

We need people who confront white supremacy without faltering.

We need a world that sees us as we are.

We need a world where white supremacists do not feel entitled to our lives.

We need a world where we are expected not only to survive but thrive.

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