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  • Writer's picturePeter Tanaka

Listen! When to speak up and when to shut up (hi world aloha)

Updated: Mar 24

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. James 1:19

There's a strong voice inside my head and heart. It pounds it's way up to the surface. Like Navi, a guiding light. I had 3 instances today of knowing when to speak up.

  1. Speaking up for justice in the workplace.

  2. Shutting up and listening at a protest. Followed by speaking up to have conversation

  3. Speaking out of turn and out of context.

Yesterday was a very interesting day. I woke up with conviction. I worry when this happens. Am I too excited and running hot; about to explode and crash in a manic high? I tried to suppress the voice inside. But I couldn't. Change doesn't occur with sideline silence. I was already planning on going to a protest later that day. I had asked all my friends. No one wanted to go with me. It was during the work day, and most people were already tired from protest, and the bombardment of informational media. I get it, people are tired. But God gave me energy. So I'm going to use that fire again. I'm an impatient person. I told my girlfriend I wouldn't go to the protest alone for safety reasons. But my best efforts resulted in no one going with me. So I panicked, and made a rash decision. What if I use the company list serve to email my entire company to solicit them and ask them if they want to come to the protest with me? Surely at least one person would go with me. What's the worst that could happen? I know I will get in trouble, but is the risk greater than the reward? Our CEO has already showed support for BLM. She even said

Be the Change You Wish to See in the World - Gandhi - Lisa Atherton 

(I've always wanted to do the Michael Scott thing , and have it actually be relevant. )

So I did it. I sent the corporate wide email out.


I know I shouldn’t be using the ES list server for this. But I just wanted to throw this out here. You’ve seen the emails from Lisa and Scott. Now is a time to act. Anyone in Baltimore want to go? It looks to be a peaceful safe protest. I know this is during work hours, but you can take vacation time, or make up your hours in the evening. We are at a turning point in history. You can be a part of it, or you can observe the change.


I got in trouble as expected. Supervisor calling me out. HR calling me out. Mentors calling me out. Friends calling me out. But at the end of the day, it was worth it, and I do not regret taking action. I make mistakes, but I learn from them. I received a slap in the face. The good kind. The one that wakes you up. Sometimes, a metaphorical slap will do. Sometimes, a mental slap will do. And lastly, sometimes even a metaphysical slap will do. For example, how can a concerned female partner end an ongoing pointless fight? If the man does not listen, what does it take? A literal slap to the face. And the slap is justified and needed. In my case, it was not literal, thankfully. Shout out to those who encouraged me and stuck by me! The voices of support are louder than the voices of reason!

Next, I went to the protest. I was the only Asian there. Not as many people showed up as expected. People left early, including a busy senator. I had so much fire again. I wanted to speak up and make a 1 minute speech, to encourage people and remind them that Asians support BLM. This was a 4 hour protest which many speakers, surely, I could ask for 1 minute. So I asked the organizer if I could make a short 1 minute speech of encouragement. He said no. I don't like no for an answer. Earlier that day, I read the story of Jacob wrestling with God.

28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”

But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” -Genesis 32

Why doesn't God say his name? In BLM, we say their names. George Floyd. But why not God? YHWH . I'm no theologian but I have a theory and opinion. Perhaps God wants us to wrestle out the truth. And He doesn't give any answers. The protest had people of different religious background (Christians, Jewish, Muslim,Catholics), personal and career backgrounds (LGBTQ, Politicians, Community Leaders) , and even children . We all see God differently, but there's only 1 God.

So I asked the organizer again if I could speak . I felt God giving me words and fire. He said no again. I was discouraged and prayed. God if you want me speak, let something happen. So I asked again for the third time. And the organizer said no. God, thank you for telling me when to shut up. Thank you for disabling my hip. As hard as my heart wanted to go, God was telling me stop, and I will listen when God tells me to stop. Why did the organizer repeatedly tell me no? I'll probably never know. I seemed like a friendly guy just trying to help, and speak words of encouragement. The organizer strongly did not want last minute changes to the program. Maybe it was because I was Asian. Maybe he thought I was arrogant. I have no idea and I don't want to cast judgement. Only God knows.

After the protest ended, I stuck around. I wanted to speak to the speakers. Networking is important, after all. And I was inspired by the great speakers, and wanted to ask questions. I had many great conversations and connections, and I learned a lot. The biggest thought I got was how I can create generational wealth for disadvantaged black youth in Baltimore. Although I had to shut up at the protest, after the protest was a time to speak up. And one of the most important connection I made that day was with the founder, Brittany Young, of B360 Baltimore, an organization that uses dirt bikes to teach kids about engineering(and much more!).

This is an organization that is very similar to WBETET. I will meet and collaborate with them. Learn from them. I don't want to re invent the wheel. Code reuse and copy paste from stack overflow. Nothing wrong with that. Sometimes you gotta make a few tweaks to make it your own though. Let's go riding. My electric bikes and your dirt bikes.

Finally, I made another mistake. I offended a black man on accident. I spoke out of turn, and didn't have enough time to clarify my post. I was in a conversion with my church about the history of African Americans. "The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross,"

During, our discussion, I posted this in our chat, and I didn't have enough time to clarify.

In Paul’s letters to the Ephesians, Paul motivates early Christian slaves to remain loyal and obedient to their masters like they are to Christ. Ephesians 6:5-8 Paul states, “Slaves, be obedient to your human masters with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ” which is Paul instructing slaves to obey their master.[103]Similar statements regarding obedient slaves can be found in Colossians 3:22-24, 1 Timothy 6:1-2, and Titus 2:9-10.[104][105][106]In Col 4:1 Paul advises members of the church, who are slave masters, to "treat your slaves justly and fairly, realizing that you too have a Master in heaven.”[107]Adding to Paul’s advice to masters and slaves, he uses slavery as a metaphor. In Romans 1:1 Paul calls himself “a slave of Christ Jesus” and later in Romans 6:18 Paul writes “You have been set free from sin and become slaves to righteousness.”[108][109]Also in Galatians, Paul writes on the nature of slavery within the kingdom of God. Galatians 3:27-29 states “there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”[110]We find similar patterns of speech and understanding about slavery in Peter’s epistles. In 1 Peter 2:18, Saint Peter writes “Slaves, be subject to your masters with all reverence, not only to those who are good and equitable but also to those who are perverse.”[111]

I posted this, and wanted to make the point that people can misinterpret the Bible and cherry pick to push their agenda. But the Bible needs to be taken as a whole. Israel was released from slavery into the promised land. There is a year of Jubilee when all debts and slaves are released. There is freedom in Christ. God wants us free, and not in man's chains. But before I could clarify, I offended a black pastor, whom I deeply respect. Sorry bro. I quickly apologized and he accepted. It was an honest misunderstanding.

I'll end with this. The youth need to speak out. Not trying to be ageist. But the young must go out. The old have power, and families. They can't take the same risks the young take. It's true in investments. Old people have safe bonds, young people have risky stocks. (Or should I say balanced portfolios of diversified risk. I'm a part time bookkeeper, but that's another story). So I take calculated risks. And sometimes I fall. But I hope to eventually get back up.

"Children born in one's youth are like arrows in the hands of a warrior. - God -Chance

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