Fight the Silence

Singer Janelle Monáe launched her record company in 2015. The tagline: "We come in peace but we mean business. Welcome to Wondaland Records." (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Janelle Monáe released a song on Thursday.

It’s a fairly simple called “Hell You Talmbout.” The lyrics consist of a series of black people’s names — all of whom were killed by police. The singer wrote on Instagram that “we recorded it to channel the pain, fear and trauma caused by the ongoing slaughter of our brothers and sisters. We recorded it to challenge the indifference, disregard and negligence of all who remain quiet about this issue.”

Well-done, good woman. I commend Monáe for using her platform to make such a positive statement, to act in some way to affect change. Not enough of us do.

Don’t get me wrong. I know why we don’t. Addressing diversity topics is touchy business. It’s easy to inadvertently get into a scrap with someone you’d prefer not to scrap with, to reveal things that in the interests of long, productive and congenial working and other relationships might be best left unsaid.

Hell, if I could, I’d be posting pretty picture of fabulous interiors and outfits for a living, and figuring out the best place to go have tea in the afternoon. I actually do that last one now, but anyway, talking about diversity isn’t always fun.

But here’s the thing: We have to do it. Otherwise nothing will change.

Not workplace policies, not stereotype bias, not pay inequities and not the unnecessary loss of black life at the hands of the police.

The next time something controversial comes up, about which you have an opinion, think about speaking up. You have to choose your battles; I understand that. You may hold an unpopular opinion that may garner you some abuse if voiced. But what if it also teaches you or someone else something valuable? What if that conversation sparks change? What is your refusal to be silent opens the door to something bigger?

You may worry that by speaking you open yourself up to judgment, but I gotta tell you: Judgment is a way of life for human beings. And these days, people are as likely to judge you for your silence as they are when you dare to speak out.