You may have noticed that Hypepotamus has posted less frequently in recent weeks, and may be wondering where we’ve been, and why.
I’ll begin by saying our pause has nothing to do with a lack of concern or carelessness about the obvious examples of racial injustice and inequality that are on massive display in America right now. Through our silence, we have not abdicated responsibility or our place in the discussion and action that is required. It’s actually quite the opposite.
As editor-in-chief of Hypepotamus, and also a black man born and raised in the American South, I have more thoughts about our current moment than I could possibly share in a newsletter editorial. To be honest, had I shared how I’ve been feeling over the past two weeks, it could’ve resulted in a reaction I’d probably spend more time explaining later. And to be even more honest, I am in no mood to apologize.
So I decided to take a moment and gather my thoughts and energy. I took a break. Not because I don’t care, and not because I am disinterested in doing the work that is and will be necessary to heal and change our country (I attended the May 29 protests). I simply needed time.
No statement I could make, including the one you’re reading now, could bring about the changes I want to see, but we can all start somewhere. The key is, we must see any statement as simply the beginning.
The conversations must continue. The action must be ongoing. The commitment to staying the course must be at the core of any journey, whether your intention is to be a hero or simply a decent human being.
You’ve surely seen the consequences of some people — many of whom probably had good intentions — saying things that came across as tone-deaf, insensitive, inarticulate, self-righteous, fake, phony, or just downright ignorant.
And I understand how it happens. Some people believe that speech is support. As a communicator by trade, I know the power of words, but I also know that many people use words as a distraction rather than a demonstration of intent to do better.
Rather than fail miserably at trying to jump into a conversation I wasn’t yet prepared to have, I decided to be silent for a short moment. And as Hypepotamus gets back to business, I felt it necessary to share my thoughts on silence.
Silence can be deafening. It can be taken as cruelty, abandonment, cowardice, surrender, and even violence. Silence can indeed be betrayal. These things are all true.
But silence can also be reverence. It can be respectful, considerate, careful, necessary for listening, and well-intentioned. Silence can still be golden, especially if, when you’re ready to be heard, you’re also ready to show up and be part of the actual solution.
We are in a time where those of good conscience are feeling a call to support those who have seen the worst treatment our country’s power structure has to offer. We have together, in rapid succession, witnessed unbelievably clear imagery of what happens when racism goes unchecked and ignored. We have seen a black man murdered with a shotgun while jogging, right here in Georgia. We’ve seen a white woman using her privilege to falsely report physical threats from a black man who was simply trying to admire birds in New York City’s Central Park. We saw a white police officer kill an unarmed and detained black man, by kneeling on his neck for more than eight minutes, in public. And we saw that it took a week of intense nationwide and global protest in order for this officer and three others to be charged with a crime.
The killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and the threatening of Christian Cooper, were stomach-churning reminders of a reality many of us had never before seen with such clarity. There is no plausible deniability that black Americans live under different conditions. Call it oppression, or terror, or constant threat. You might even call it, with historical accuracy, the American way.
And when you realize just how much African-Americans have endured to have simply survived as well as we have, you start to understand that we are indeed an inspiring group of people who deserve better. We thrive, we endure, we continue to look for a future in which the tragedies of yesterday inform and guide a hopeful tomorrow. We are as American as the American Dream could possibly be, if it is indeed to be believed as a real thing.
And that gets us to the question of what we believe.
What about you? Do you believe there is something you can do, rather than simply say, in order to affect change? Do you believe the tech community, with all its disruption and ways to increase efficiencies, can be of service today?
Do you believe that we’d even be talking about George Floyd, or Ahmaud Arbery, or Christian Cooper, if not for the ability to instantly upload and share cell phone video? Isn’t that tech?
We can safely assume that few people would know any of these victims’ names, and we can also assume that the perpetrators of these crimes would be free today. That’s the silence that kills.
Technology has an ongoing responsibility to be an ally for justice, and good for humanity. As we see that brutality, while universal in some ways, has a particular affinity for African-Americans, we should strive to see ourselves as a human family. In our differences we should also recognize our similarities. We are neighbors, coworkers, citizens and members of a community that is bigger than our region, country and continent.
So no, I didn’t quit, and neither did Hypepotamus. We paused to think about this moment, and what it means to be a source of information that serves the community. And we are less about the appearance of solidarity than we are about the proof.
Expect Hype to be active in the fight for equality and justice. Hold us accountable. Reach out to us and tell us what we can do to be of service.
And know that it’s OK to hold your words when they are not yet clear, because the world will remember what you did today far more than what you said.