Sun Jan 24
Listen to the canaries, for they will be the first to signal danger.
It’s such an old idiom that young folks might not recognize it: the concept of a “canary in a coal mine.” Small domestic birds (known as sentinel species in this context) were taken by miners down into the tunnels, where deadly invisible gasses could build up without warning. If the canary died, the miner knew they must get out or risk suffocation.
There is another idiom, “sing like a canary” which implies that someone who is in trouble will tell all they know (spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag) to avoid further danger.
Finally, I offer the title of Maya Angelou’s autobiography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”
Together, these three metaphors illustrate the vulnerability of marginalized peoples and the importance of amplifying melanated voices.
When we find ourselves at a crossroads, we must listen to those voices warning of the continued racism and oppression, invisible and pervasive, poisonous and deadly, that threatens to destroy us all.