Every person with a voice is responsible for using it. The size of the voice is irrelevant; if there’s at least one person you could be speaking to and you don’t, you’ve failed. If you have older relatives or children or nieces and nephews that depend on Medicaid and you’re unconcerned with what’s going on regarding health care, you’ve failed them. If you have friends or parents or grandparents that have told you about racial discrimination they’ve experienced and you stay silent while the same things keep happening, you’ve failed them. If you know people that have been sexually abused or harassed (and the odds say that you do, even if you’re not aware of it) and you stay silent around friends or bosses that joke about it or perpetuate the beliefs that will only lead to more incidents and victims, you’ve failed those people in your life.
You don’t have to be famous to use your voice. You don’t need money, a TV show, a press release, or any of that. All you need to do is speak. Call out those around you; educate people in your circle that are unfamiliar with or uninformed about the experiences of others. Use your voice where others cannot. If you’ve never experienced racism, how can you use your voice? Share the stories and the knowledge with others, be the voice in the places where others have no opportunity to speak. Be a conduit to speak for those who can’t and keep the conversation going. Yes, these will often be awkward, but nothing worth fighting for is easy. It’s better than having the awkward conversation with your children when you explain why you were passive and apathetic in the face of injustice, describing how you were alive during these times and did absolutely nothing but focus on yourself. How can you expect to teach others right and wrong when your own actions and experiences contradict the lessons you try to instill?
There’s no more “stick to sports” or “stick to Hollywood.” If you genuinely believed that sports was meant to be your escape, your vacation from politics and the realities of life, then I’m (not) sorry to report that you’ve been sadly mistaken. Politics is interwoven into every aspect of your life; everything you say and do and eat and watch, your job, your possessions, your well-being, all of it. Wanting to keep them separate is saying “I want the ability to ignore these problems; I don’t want to be reminded about this because it doesn’t affect me, it’s someone else’s problem.” At best it’s privilege; at worst it’s a lack of empathy. Asking athletes or any other public figure to remain silent is projecting that same willful ignorance onto them, and asking them to put what’s important to them aside for what’s important to you (knowing their place, not saying or doing anything that you haven’t approved of).
Every athlete/celebrity/public figure/etc. that doesn’t speak up has failed. Every citizen that claims to love freedom and love America and love the troops that doesn’t exercise the rights they died for has failed. And I don’t mean they have to agree with me, let them speak up in support of the hate if that’s how they truly feel. But to have that platform and opportunity and not use it is asinine, irresponsible, and reeks of cowardice. If your beliefs aren’t strong enough for you to stand behind them, are they even legitimate? If they’re withheld because you fear criticism, because you know they rest on a crumbling foundation of contradictions and half-truths, then you should be pitied for your lack of conviction…unless you try to speak against those with genuine beliefs, in which case you deserve whatever mockery and scorn comes your way. If you can’t speak for your beliefs as strongly as you speak against the beliefs of another, you’ve revoked your right to be respected.
The only thing that’s clear is that silence is no longer an option. Speak up or lose your right to complain about whatever comes to pass (and learn to live with the shame of your inaction).