So three years ago. I wrote a column for the Olympian and it went a little something like this:
If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it fall, does it make a sound? If a student does not tell her tale of racial harassment, does her lack of storytelling negate the reality of her story? If all you have to back up a claim is your faith in the validity of the claim, does the phenomenon you proclaim truly exist?
Many times in life, we are asked to believe in intrinsic situations that seem to lack logical evidentiary trails. Sometimes, we are called to believe in circumstances that contradict the evidence at hand. In both of these situations, we are entrusted with the voice of the storyteller and asked to believe in the unbelievable. Against all better judgment, why is it important that we take the time to believe? It is important that we believe because validation is central to any person’s ability to feel valued as a part of their community.
Heather Woodard’s March 28 article “When Races Collide” illustrates the perfect storm David Fennel—father of a child victim of racial harassment—hints at in suggesting that racial incidents are under-reported in our school districts. On the one hand, Ms. Woodard’s reporting indicated that there are members of our educational community who believe the lack of a more significant outcry indicates the absence of a bigger problem. However, there are also members of our community—students at Olympia High School —who feel that the environment is not conducive to speaking out because they do not feel comfortable telling their stories to those available to listen.
In one instance, we might wonder if silence indicates progress so great as to signify a newfound equality for previously marginalized groups. If we agree, for a moment, that this is not always the case, the logical follow up inquiry might ask whether the lack of an outcry always indicates a more significant problem? In my opinion, and quite likely my opinion only, the lack of an outcry always signifies a larger problem because the lack of an outcry, at the very least, indicates the presence of lock-step agreement with the status quo.
Any time you have members of a community that are uneasy about discussing their disconnect from the community, there is a problem. In the context of progress towards a more unified society, the absence of an outcry—the absence of dissent—suggests a homogenous gathering where everyone agrees with each other but innovation is at a standstill because difference—different ideas, different approaches to problems, different experiences—are non-existent. In both instances, the airwaves are silent, but progress is absent.
Frustrating our community into silence will always result in the appearance of progress that masks the deeper issues we have yet to address in our efforts to create a unified community. Giving voice to those in our community whose stories have been muted is a step we can all take towards validating all members of our community.
Frustrating our community into silence. Back then, there were some serious issues in the schools and students were being ignored--being told it was a figment of their imagination and that they were the abnormal ones because really, we'd come so far "from there" that really, it couldn't be possible that there were issues. Today, as I watch the election unfold, as I watched Wyatt--a high school kid get elected as a State Delegate at our LD caucuses and as I watched a not too much older young lady become chair of our caucus over the genteel old party hat because she knew how to work a bullhorn, I get chills. This year is different. It is absolutely different. But then again, three years ago, maybe this was one of the sparks that ignited the bonfire of passion that burns so deeply within us "young folk" this year.