Crime of Silence
Posted on August 15, 2016
Innocence in the face of institutional injustice is a social crime. In the context of black experience, Leonard Pitts Jr. attributes this insight to James Baldwin and Ta-Nehisi Coates. If memory serves, the poet Andrei Codrescu once opined that the innocents of the world should be required to wear bells to warn us of their approach so we can protect ourselves (though I am unable to locate the source). Even Pontius Pilate, you will recall, was innocent of the crime of crucifying Jesus.
Centrists, for example, are by strategic design perfectly innocent of all crimes, since there is nothing, so they usually claim when confronted by the bases of their respective parties, they could have done. The Good Germans were equally innocent. And in Kansas a moderate faction of one of the two major parties are innocent of Brownbackistanian destruction (even though in the statehouse they did in fact vote for the wrecking crew leadership that pushed through the abolition of our fiscal integrity).
We might define innocence as the extreme case of plausible deniability. It is the taking of excruciating care not to get out in front. It is best accomplished by means of passive hand-wringing.
In my book, if you do not at a bare minimum speak out against institutionalized evil, then you own it.