The Cowardice of Comfortable Language

By Steven Joseph
July 15, 2020

I will not waste your time giving you the historical backdrop of our current (and long-standing) race crisis. The evidence is right there for you to consume. This is for those who stand on the wrong side of history. Not to “bridge gaps in understanding,” because us Black & Brown folx are not obligated to exhaust our emotional, mental, and intellectual capabilities to educate anyone on our suffering. This is to address the cowardice of comfortable language

We’ve seen it all. The social media posts that walk between the event horizon of necessary radicalization, soft performative allyship, or blatant racism. These posts, typically authored by a middle-aged white man in those atrocious sunglasses with an American flag background, or a “let’s all hold hands around the campfire,” mildly-intentioned-and-poorly-executed liberal, represent the chokehold the police have on the American conscious. 

You know the terms. The sweat on the brow emerging from wanting to call out this violent system, but being afraid of the white supremacist boogeyman.

  • “Not all cops are bad.”
  • “They have such a difficult job.”
  • “Maybe if they complied, they would be alive.”
  • “Who will you call if you’re in trouble?”

This barely encompasses the sheer ignorance and drunken hubris that state-sanctioned violence survives on. The inability to come to terms with just how destructive this system is, the almost-willing failure to acknowledge that the police are anathema to the lives of all marginalized people. 

These violent, subjugating entities that are routinely suppressing marginalized folx are sustained by a systemic respectability politic. There is an inherent, engineered discomfort in not only acknowledging that this system is broken, but actively disparaging, damning, and lambasting it.

Pieces of the collective consciousness are fixated with protecting the comfort of a system designed to kill rather than to protect the lives of those being killed.

Language – the artistry & construction of words, is one of the most essential functions of upholding oppressive systems. In one breath – “not all cops are bad” is uttered. In the following breath – “they should have complied”.

The fear of this murderous entity of state-sanctioned violence grants it fuel to survive. You are an accomplice in the longevity of these systems.

Ask yourself where this fear stems from. Is it your family? Your friends? Fear of retaliation? Interrogate the cowardice that prevents your advocacy for justice. 

Language is revolutionary. Seek discomfort in destroying the language that allows these systems to thrive and not the comfort in continuing to uplift them. 

What we’ll leave it at is – if your Thanksgiving 2020 is not an argument with your racist family members, you are still an accomplice.


Steven Joseph is a nonprofit professional with a background in social justice, volunteer engagement, fundraising, and NGO work. He is based in Queens, NY.

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