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How to Silence 101

November 10, 2014

Let me be the first to say that I don’t think that 80-person class discussions are my thing. Today I spent roughly an hour with my hand raised, not getting called on. Now, normally, I wouldn’t continue to keep my hand up, because what’s the point? But today I did, partially to make a statement.

About 30 minutes into this discussion, the young man sitting next to me (who had already been called on) leaned over and whispered to me, “Willa just give up, it’s not like your opinion is really going to change anything.” And the shitty thing is, for half a second, I believed him. Then I woke up and realized what was going on.

This interaction was not okay. And I know that he certainly didn’t mean that comment to be taken in an all-encompassing way, but in my mind, there was no difference. Isn’t starting small how we begin to silence people?

I refused to be silent, so instead I waited until I was called on, said what I had to say, and continued on with my life. But my mind went back to his comment. The bottom line is this: regardless of what he meant, telling someone that their opinion doesn’t matter and that it won’t change anything isn’t is a productive or helpful thing to do. Sure, right at this moment, my opinion probably won’t move mountains, but if you silence me, I won’t ever even try. And trying is really what matters.

As Amelia Earhart said, “If enough of us keep trying, we’ll get somewhere.” So I say this: Try. Think. Do. Speak your mind, state your opinion, and do not silence others. Your opinion matters, your opinion can change the world. You can change the world.

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