“A definition of political cowardice: Silence in the face of outrage is complicity. And complicity begets more and often escalated outrageous actions.”
– Dan Rather, May 26th – from Twitter
In 2020, two pandemics have emerged to inflict new wounds on us and tear the scabs off old ones. The first, a new, novel, medical virus, has forced states and municipalities to invoke measures unseen outside of times of war while the virus’s death toll surpasses many of those very times. In its wake, it has exposed the flaws and inequities of our economy, our healthcare system, and our collective understanding of freedom. The second, a historical, entrenched, social plague, has reemerged in the past months to be filmed explicitly in broad daylight not once, not twice, but multiple times leading to widespread protests and unrest.
Both have shoved a mirror in our faces, imploring us, forcing us to look at what we have done or not done to combat them. And yet, our Wyoming representatives in Washington seem perfectly content to do or say little to nothing on either one of them.
For the virus, their public statements are more concerned about focusing on China than our own efforts here while their published articles and opinion pieces call for basic, thinly supported appeals to getting our economy back on track without much direction or concern for the safety of our healthcare system, our employers, or our workers.
For the plague that is systematic racism in our country, they deliver almost near silence. A few scattered re-tweets that just lean towards the restoring of “law and order” line without acknowledging the deep pain that decades of injustice has caused or attempting to understand why these protests may spiral into riots. No attempt to provide comfort or solidarity with people across the nation who are struggling with a pandemic that has been shown to disproportionately affect them while they watch time and time again their own communities suffer violence at the hands of those who are supposed to protect them.
And I would like to ask the question “why?” Why the silence? But it is a question that doesn’t need to be asked. We all know the answer: for them, it does not matter. In a state that is predominately white, Minneapolis and Atlanta and New York seem far away.
However, we must be aware, Wyoming does have black and brown people who face similar issues. We must be aware, despite only making up around 12% of our population, African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans make up nearly 30% of those currently incarcerated. We must be aware, if we are not actively dismantling the structures that benefit some while oppressing others, we are aligning ourselves with that oppression. And I must be aware, I cannot sit idly by in Ryan Park and not be concerned with what happens in Birmingham.
Our representatives are elected to serve all people, to acknowledge the reasonable majority while protecting the minority. If our leaders do not speak out about injustice, how will they represent the minorities and people of color of this great state and nation? If our representatives do not lead with empathy and strive for understanding, how will they fight for the common citizen, the worker, the disenfranchised?
We are supposed to live each day with courage but silence shows the opposite. Come November, we have a choice. We can continue to believe that what happens outside our borders has little to nothing to do with us unless it fits nicely into our agenda; or, we can begin to recognize and listen to the pain and suffering people in this nation truly feel from a long, troubled history and be part of the solution to rectify it.
If we believe we need to do what has to be done, we must choose the latter. Our representatives need to stand up to injustice, racism, and discrimination. Our representatives need to demand reform and accountability from institutions when it is due.
Wyoming is the Equality State, and we should show the world that we mean what we say.
-Carl Beach, May 31st, 2020