I don’t know how to write this post.
I thought about it all day. I thought about it in the early shower I took tonight, specifically early so I could try to process what occurred today. How to process what is haunting me in a way that I’m unsure how to handle it at all.
I haven’t brushed my hair yet, haven’t put lotion on my winter-dry-skin face because I’m trying to process the blatant racism exhibited at a meeting I attended earlier today.
I told my husband, my parents, my co-workers what happened. And I haven’t figured out what I ought to have done. So, in the hopes that I can tag this post properly and use the right hashtags in tweeting it to get some ideas, here goes…
I’m involved with an organization and today was my first meeting as a member of its Board of Directors. I have a deep affinity for the organization and the community it serves.
There are, of course, other Board members. And I understand that just like the every day life I lead, everyone on the Board brings different perspective to the table. Which is perfect, of course. It’s what we want.
A fellow Board member began talking politics in the middle of the meeting, entirely off topic, specifically commenting on how Michigan’s Governor, Republican Rick Snyder, was doing a really good job. And while I’m from the complete opposite school of thought with regard to Mr. Snyder and the job he’s doing on a variety of fronts, I have learned JUST enough in my big-mouthed experience to not engage in political discussion in groups of people who I don’t know terribly well. It’s better for all of us, in times like these, to hold our beliefs close and work towards the common goals that bring us together. Political discussion works fine around our dinner table at home, on our back patio, over drinks, or where that is the point of bringing people together. But not in this setting.
So, I bit my tongue.
I even kept my eyes and face down so that no one could see my reaction – I’m an open book when it comes to my emotions.
I’d done well, I thought, in avoiding confrontation and making a scene.
And then, the same individual who had commented on Governor Snyder’s really good job, segued into a discussion about Detroit, about how he couldn’t understand how all these blacks had been elected mayor and driven the city to bankruptcy all those years, and then had to elect a white guy to get them out of bankruptcy.
To say I was shocked was an understatement. I don’t THINK like that, let alone speak in public like that.
But here was this guy, saying these things.
And — I averted my eyes, bulging out of my skull though they were, avoided confrontation and avoided making a scene.
I. Said. Nothing.
And it’s haunting me tonight, 12 hours later. Having said nothing.
I feel as though my silence, in this rural Michigan town, somehow could be construed that I AGREE.
And I do not.
But, how does a white woman like me speak up, in a room of all white men and women, in a community of almost entirely white men, women and children? What words could I have used? What could I have said?
Honestly – I’m asking HONESTLY. What could I have said that wouldn’t jeopardize all the things I’ve worked toward personally and professionally?
I live in this community. I work in this community. I LIKE the community.
I DISLIKE people speaking this way.
Part of it is naivete – it’s not like I don’t know there are people in the world who feel that way about other demographic groups – but I didn’t…
I don’t know.
I could have made a statement, of course. I could have used my words – which can be sharper than knives – and could have stood up for how these words and the discussion made me feel. I could have said that it made me feel uncomfortable. But that would have put this person on the defensive, I fear, and it would have been confrontational. It could affect my work. It could affect my livelihood.
I guess what I am searching for are words – for the next time I find myself in a scenario where the discussion makes me feel uncomfortable and how I can deflect the topic while making it clear I do NOT agree with the views.
Sharing memes on facebook doesn’t change the way racism affects me, affects the community my family lives within. But the way I react and the words I use — maybe they can.
So what can I do? And how do I do it?