Before a recent NFL game, Andrew Hawkins, of the Cleveland Browns, wore a T-shirt which read “Justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford.” If you don’t know, Rice and Crawford were the two black unarmed males recently killed by Ohio police.

Jeff Follmer, the head of Cleveland’s police union,  called Hawkins “pathetic,” demanding an apology.

Pathetic is not the word I would choose to describe Hawkins who responded:

“I was taught that justice is a right that every American should have. Also justice should be the goal of every American. I think that’s what makes this country. To me, justice means the innocent should be found innocent. It means that those who do wrong should get their due punishment. Ultimately, it means fair treatment. So a call for justice shouldn’t offend or disrespect anybody. A call for justice shouldn’t warrant an apology.”

This incident illustrates why many of us worry about speaking up.

Hawkins had anticipated backlash for wearing the shirt, yet did it anyway, saying, “If I was to run away from what I felt in my soul that would make me a coward, and I can’t live with that.”

It has always been difficult to speak truth to power. But, when we remain silent, we are more than cowards, we become part of the problem.

As the ever awesome Franchesca Ramsey, TK Wonder and UrbanBushBabes reminded us during the march for police accountability this past Saturday:  “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” — Desmond Tutu.

Speaking Truth to Power Has Never Been Easy

In controversial times like these, folks always say there are “two sides to every story”. There will always be multiple viewpoints about “what really happened” and there will always be different ideas of how we should fix society’s ills. At some point, we still have to choose a side. During slavery there were “two sides”: those for abolition and those for slavery. During the feminist movement there were two sides: those for “women’s lib” and those for keeping women “in their place”…

Eventually, indecision becomes an excuse for inaction. Silence equals consent.

Ultimately, we have to ask ourselves: “When I look back years from now, will I be able to look my grandchildren in the eyes and tell them how I acted at this important time? Will I be able to say I did what was right?”

Andrew Hawkins will.

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Check out the full video of Andrew Hawkins’ response below:

Related reads: Random Voices Are Not Enough – Why Educational Leaders Need to Talk about #BlackLivesMatterThis is Happening… #BlackLivesMatter #MarchOnWashingtonWhat a Trip to the Grocery Store Reveals about White Privilege

How are you speaking up? What makes speaking up difficult? How are you overcoming resistance to change in your community? Post your thoughts in the comments below.

Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. It’s nuts that he was called out just for wearing the shirt. I suppose there’ll always be differences of opinions, but it’s not like he did anything crazy. People wear messages all the time on their shirts.

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  2. Excellent and timely post. Pretty obvious there is one particular group of people who want (and feel entitled) to dictate which Americans can have freedom of speech. White people. When do we see people of color, LGBT, Muslim or other marginalized groups try to tell white people they can’t speak freely? Instead they ask for equality, justice, free speech – all things white Americans have – and this is a problem. As if more evidence is needed about who is really in charge in the US, and why we need to discuss white supremacy and racial injustice…

    Reply

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About alimcollins

Ali Collins is an educator, community organizer and mom. She lives with her husband and twin girls in San Francisco, CA.

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Race & Racism, Social Justice Parenting

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