When I first saw on a protest sign the text “white silence is violence,” I felt offended. I felt as if I had been unfairly accused of hurting someone. Later, I realized that I just wanted to hang onto my silence, because it feels easy, and because making noise is scary. Over time I have come to acknowledge the truth of this statement. Having already realized how powerful it is, from my own experience, I wanted to make a papercut with it.
I didn’t have to dig very far into Jewish tradition to find Hebrew text that connects. “Lo ta’amod al-dam re’echa” (Lev. 19:16) is a well-know text, and has been translated many ways. Literally, this command means “do not stand in the blood of your neighbor,” but it’s been interpreted to mean “Do not stand idly by when your neighbor’s life is threatened.” In this country, which was built on and continues to operate according to white supremacy, every white person who is silent about this injustice is participating in the violence perpetrated by the state on people of color. Standing idly by in America is standing in the blood of your neighbors.
In this piece, I’ve embedded the English words in the Hebrew. For the Hebrew, I started with a font called Abraham, which I modified slightly here and there to make it work.