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  • Writer's pictureD. Randall Faro

Keep Your Mouth Shut If . . .

       Growing up in Indianapolis in the early 60s I spend uncounted happy days at the Riviera Club, a gigantic outdoor swimming pool with private membership only. The club was a “whites only” organization, excluding Blacks and Jews, among others. I don’t remember thinking there was anything wrong with that, nor the subject ever came up in our family. It was simply a subconscious fact of life.

      At that same Riviera Club, a mentally challenged adult named Charlie frequented the pool in summertime. He was verbally inept and often exhibited “unnatural” behaviors that resulted in his being made fun of by teenagers, some of them friends of mine. I didn’t like it when others made fun of Charlie, but even though I did not participate in such cruelty, neither did I speak against it. I keep my mouth shut.


·       Racism writ large in word and deed. If degradation and oppression of people of color doesn’t bother you or if you’re in a privileged class which escapes such and you don’t want to endanger that status, then keep your mouth shut.


·       Oppression and exclusion of any kind against others of different ethnic/cultural origins, sexual orientation, or gender. If you observe this happening to others, but you’re safe and sound in categories that hold the power and feel like it’s not your problem, then keep your mouth shut.


·       Corruption and dishonesty. If the consequences of these mindsets and actions do not affect you and you don’t particularly care who suffers because of them, then keep your mouth shut.


·       Injustice. If the playing field is not even, if people suffer because people in power wield it for their self-interest, if fairness and equality for all is not a concern of yours, then keep your mouth shut.


      Opening your mouth to identify and call to account people exhibiting the behaviors noted above is risky. It might entail the people in power noticing your voice and turning that power against you. It could even be so risky that one might end up being crucified. Comfortable people who aren’t willing to risk keep their mouths shut.


      Where there is racism, oppression, exclusion, corruption, unfairness, and injustice, there is no neutral ground. A say-nothing, do-nothing, or sit-on-the-fence mentality is really to support the status quo. The result of people not identifying and not working to right whatever wrongs are perpetrated on others means that injustice and unfairness prevail.


      Thomas Jefferson is reputed to have written: “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.” This from a man who owned over 600 slaves in his lifetime. In other words, speaking against injustice needs be accompanied by corresponding actions lest the words turn into meaningless dust.


      There are times to say something . . . times when keeping one’s mouth shut perpetrates evil. So keep your mouth shut . . . if you don’t care. If you do care, speak up.

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