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Your silence won’t protect you

On Tuesday, I attended the 25th annual LGBTQ+ Pancake Breakfast, which I also wrote an article about in today’s issue. The speaker, Professor Gary Bailey of Simmons College, carried messages of  acknowledging the importance of intersectional issues in today’s world, as well as reflecting on how these issues have been lost to history. As anyone who as in attendance of either the breakfast or the Kidder Lecture later that day knows, Bailey is an incredibly captivating, articulate and simply inspiring speaker.

Bailey quoted the great Audre Lorde several times during his speech at the pancake breakfast as well as during his lecture. The quote that resonated with me the most is actually made up of quotes from two different works that Bailey placed side by side for the purpose of his presentation: “I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood…When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.” This also relates to Lorde’s most famous recitation, “your silence will not protect you.”

Professor Bailey’s presentations also briefly touched on generational differences. I thought about this after speaking with my father on the phone (sorry, Dad) after attending the events on Tuesday and expressing anger and frustration toward the injustices faced by many in our own country and local communities. Since my father raised me on liberalism and Bob Dylan, I was surprised when he told me to try not to focus on the injustices in the world, or on things I can’t fix.

Dr. Bailey also acknowledged the imperfections in our society. Though we have made significant progress that we should be proud of, the fight still continues and we are all still learning how to be good allies every day. He pointed out the the oppressed know best how to oppress because oppression has been modeled for them so well; “It’s so important for us as a community to hold ourselves up to a mirror and to really look deeply at ourselves…” he said on Tuesday.

You may feel hopeless when faced with the countless injustices people within and beyond this country’s borders have to deal with every day. After all, how much can a college student in New Hampshire do?

As I looked around the room at the pancake breakfast and the Kidder lecture, I was impressed by the number of people in attendance. However, I noticed that when I go to events like these on campus, I always see the same faces. I realized that many students here at UNH probably have the same attitude toward acting against injustice as my father did.

We are so lucky to have the countless events that celebrate and educate about diversity at UNH, and everyone should take that opportunity to learn as much as they can about their community. Throughout the month of April alone, countless student organizations have been and will be continuing to host events for Pride Month, Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Genocide Awareness Month.

Just because an issue does not personally affect you, or is tiring to think about, does not mean you shouldn’t say something as Audre Lorde explained,  as the ignorance of injustice is itself an injustice, and allows oppression to continue. Simply talking and having discussions may seem trivial, but it is an incredibly important step to creating change. I hope that we can continue to have conversations like those Gary Bailey brought to UNH this Tuesday so that we can all learn how to better ourselves as allies and as a community. Much has been done, but we still have a long way to go. For when these things directly affect our community, we cannot stay silent.

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