On Shutting My Mouth for a Day

Yesterday, June 2, 2020, many of us observed Blackout Tuesday to show respect for the Black Lives Matter protests. This followed on a weekend of protests, particularly in the US, over police brutality and the resultant deaths of black people in police custody. The peaceful protests were deliberated escalated by white nationalist groups hoping for violence, and culminated on Monday afternoon with Trump ordering tear gas and bullets to disperse a peaceful crowd demonstrating in front of the White House so he could appear to part the crowd like Moses and pose in front of a church with a Bible.

I was supposed to have a book event at Mysterious Galaxy on Monday evening – one already moved from an in-store event due to the COVID-19 pandemic to an online party via Zoom – and I’d been wondering about how I could pull off a fun and engaging event when the store coordinator reached out to me via Facebook. We agreed that it wouldn’t be right to have a book celebration under those circumstances, so we put out a statement to that effect. And we rescheduled for Thursday, June 11. I hope you’ll all still attend!

It was easy to reschedule. I was happy to step back on talking up my book for the evening as we wrestled more important matters. And I felt strong emotions the following morning when I changed my social media profiles, banners and top posts to black squares. I didn’t post a podcast interview I had planned. I also took down all of the ads I could think of. That was me, shutting up for a while.

And no, I didn’t use any hashtags, or even any words, because I was shutting up for a while.

A few hours into the blackout day, people began sending around cautions that the blackout posts were flooding the hashtags needed to convey information, and many people hastily pulled those off. Much later in the day, an author friend tagged me on Facebook telling me I shouldn’t be doing it at all because the world needed my voice (and those of the other people she tagged). I explained that’s why I hadn’t used the hashtags. I refrained from saying that the world could do without white voices for 24 hours.

That was the point: to step back, shut up, and allow black voices to be heard.

That’s why I didn’t use any hashtags to begin with, because I didn’t need to make this about me. I saw so many white authors using this crisis to elevate their brand and visibility. Seriously? Can’t we just STOP for 24 hours?

Anyway, I’m clearly back to yammering about Me and My Book. But I also hope to be aware of allowing others to speak. Right now, listening and letting others speak is the best thing we can do.