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  • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,

  • in a 1968 speech where he reflects upon the Civil Rights Movement,

  • states, "In the end,

  • we will remember not the words of our enemies

  • but the silence of our friends."

  • As a teacher, I've internalized this message.

  • Every day, all around us,

  • we see the consequences of silence

  • manifest themselves in the form of discrimination,

  • violence, genocide and war.

  • In the classroom, I challenge my students

  • to explore the silences in their own lives

  • through poetry.

  • We work together to fill those spaces,

  • to recognize them, to name them,

  • to understand that they don't have to be sources of shame.

  • In an effort to create a culture within my classroom

  • where students feel safe sharing the intimacies

  • of their own silences,

  • I have four core principles posted on the board

  • that sits in the front of my class,

  • which every student signs at the beginning of the year:

  • read critically, write consciously,

  • speak clearly, tell your truth.

  • And I find myself thinking a lot about that last point,

  • tell your truth.

  • And I realized that

  • if I was going to ask my students to speak up,

  • I was going to have to tell my truth

  • and be honest with them about the times

  • where I failed to do so.

  • So I tell them that growing up,

  • as a kid in a Catholic family in New Orleans,

  • during Lent I was always taught

  • that the most meaningful thing one could do

  • was to give something up,

  • sacrifice something you typically indulge in

  • to prove to God you understand his sanctity.

  • I've given up soda, McDonald's, French fries,

  • French kisses, and everything in between.

  • But one year, I gave up speaking.

  • I figured the most valuable thing I could sacrifice

  • was my own voice, but it was like I hadn't realized

  • that I had given that up a long time ago.

  • I spent so much of my life

  • telling people the things they wanted to hear

  • instead of the things they needed to,

  • told myself I wasn't meant to be anyone's conscience

  • because I still had to figure out being my own,

  • so sometimes I just wouldn't say anything,

  • appeasing ignorance with my silence,

  • unaware that validation doesn't need words

  • to endorse its existence.

  • When Christian was beat up for being gay,

  • I put my hands in my pocket

  • and walked with my head down as if I didn't even notice.

  • I couldn't use my locker for weeks because the bolt on the lock

  • reminded me of the one I had put on my lips

  • when the homeless man on the corner

  • looked at me with eyes up merely searching

  • for an affirmation that he was worth seeing.

  • I was more concerned with touching the screen on my Apple

  • than actually feeding him one.

  • When the woman at the fundraising gala

  • said "I'm so proud of you.

  • It must be so hard teaching those poor, unintelligent kids,"

  • I bit my lip, because apparently we needed her money

  • more than my students needed their dignity.

  • We spend so much time

  • listening to the things people are saying

  • that we rarely pay attention to the things they don't.

  • Silence is the residue of fear.

  • It is feeling your flaws

  • gut-wrench guillotine your tongue.

  • It is the air retreating from your chest

  • because it doesn't feel safe in your lungs.

  • Silence is Rwandan genocide. Silence is Katrina.

  • It is what you hear when there aren't enough body bags left.

  • It is the sound after the noose is already tied.

  • It is charring. It is chains. It is privilege. It is pain.

  • There is no time to pick your battles

  • when your battles have already picked you.

  • I will not let silence wrap itself around my indecision.

  • I will tell Christian that he is a lion,

  • a sanctuary of bravery and brilliance.

  • I will ask that homeless man what his name is

  • and how his day was, because sometimes

  • all people want to be is human.

  • I will tell that woman that my students can talk about

  • transcendentalism like their last name was Thoreau,

  • and just because you watched one episode of "The Wire"

  • doesn't mean you know anything about my kids.

  • So this year,

  • instead of giving something up,

  • I will live every day as if there were a microphone

  • tucked under my tongue,

  • a stage on the underside of my inhibition.

  • Because who has to have a soapbox

  • when all you've ever needed is your voice?

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,

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B1 US TED silence needed genocide feel safe homeless

【TED】Clint Smith: The danger of silence (The danger of silence | Clint Smith)

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    Daniel Chin posted on 2014/08/16
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