I am angry that we have to lay it all out ask to be treated like people.
I am angry about the silence.
I am angry about the willingness to be complicit.
I am angry that even when we ask for help, even when we lay it all out, even when we beg… there is still silence.
Deafening, heartbreaking silence.
Silence that damages. That keeps this cycle going. Silence that is part of the problem.
How many of us have to scream, to reopen wounds, to present them in front of you before you’ll help us?
How many women, people of color, queer people, people in danger… how many?
Recently, as I was putting my children to bed one night, I heard a woman screaming. It was summer, so our windows were open and through the screens I heard her screams.
“HELP! I NEED HELP! Please someone help me!”
I paused. I hesitated.
We live in a building near a large public park and shady things go down there all the time. It was nearly dark and I was afraid.
I ran out onto my porch to see if I could see her, and I saw most of my neighbors standing out there, too. They were staring, looking down at her, but no one was saying anything or doing anything to help. Just then, a car pulled up and asked if she was serious.
She was screaming for help, and they asked if she meant it. Already, they didn’t believe her.
I was still hesitating. I heard her half-yell, through panicked tears, that the man she was with was diabetic and he needed sugar. Did anyone have any juice?
By this time, most of my neighbors had wandered inside. I ran in, threw on some shoes, and grabbed my keys and one of my kids’ juice boxes and said something about a woman needing help as I ran out the door.
I didn’t go until I knew why she was screaming.
The car asked if she was serious as she was screaming.
No one believes us. No one helps. Not even me.
By the time I got down there, one other neighbor in my building of 30 people—an older man—had also grabbed juice and ran down to help. Another neighbor, a man, had run down from up the street with honey. No one else. The car was still pulled over, a woman and a man sitting on the sidewalk with the man recovering and eating honey and the woman still shaking and thanking us.
We all hesitated. It took all of us too long to help. Too many people didn’t help at all. I was afraid. They asked her, while she screamed for help, if she was serious.
I’ve been in a room while someone screamed for help. I couldn’t get to her because my arms and legs were pinned down by a boy who was stronger than I was. I didn’t hesitate then, but I couldn’t get to her.
I knew she was serious.
I don’t know what to do with this information. I don’t know how to make us all listen to each other. I don’t know how to force people to care about each other. To defend each other. To listen to each other. To believe each other. To do something.
I don’t know how we all learn to accept that sometimes, people do horrible, horrible things. That sometimes WE do horrible, horrible things. I don’t know how we all learn to accept that the only way to stop it is to DO something. To change things. To change ourselves. To listen to the people who are screaming.
I’m angry that I have to ask. I’m angry that my screaming is greeted with silence.
I’m angry that once, when I didn’t know what was happening, I hesitated. I won’t hesitate again. And I won’t stop screaming.
Are they going to ask me if I’m serious?
No. Because they aren't asking anything. I don't even know if they're listening. They are silent.
What will it take for them to believe—for them to care—that we are serious?