What Do I Do About the Racism?

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.

But today…

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.

So…

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.

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…

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?

 

Daycare Is No Place For Politics

I had a troubling thing happen this afternoon, Election Eve.

Quite remarkably, I’ve avoided heated confrontation this election cycle. This is partially due to Jon’s calming influence on me (“it’s not worth it” he says) and partially due to age and perspective. Either way, I sort of stayed the course this afternoon (to use election-ease on you) and stayed true to myself at the same time. I am able to rest easy tonight.

I had today off, after working the weekend. I enjoyed my day, with Elle at school, truly doing mainly nothing. Jon heads to work at 6 p.m., so at about 4:15, I was off to pick her up from ‘school’ aka daycare.

Let me intercede and say that I chose Elle’s daycare because of its location – convenient – and my knowledge of its owner, who I went to high school with. I chose the daycare because the teachers, manager and owner seemed (and still do) truly invested in the care of my child. It was all run on the up-and-up. I’ve never really thought twice about Elle’s care there – other than the fact that they often call her Ellie (which I’ve asked them not to) and that it’s quite religious-oriented, which I am not comfortable with at all. But I ignore my misgivings about the praying before eating, the religious songs playing daily, the Christian rock station in the entry way, because I understand that no child care locale is perfect, and this is what I have to reconcile. These are my problems – not Elle’s, not the teachers or anyone else.

I didn’t know when I was looking at the daycare that it was so religious-based. Didn’t even know it while I toured it and spoke with the manager and owner. Only when I began the paperwork process did it allude to the Christian influences of my child’s care.

And despite my own beliefs, I chose to enroll my child there, because I wanted to begin building friendships with kids her age and with parents of kids her same age. I have envisioned my child sharing time and space and ‘we’ve known each other since pre-school’ stories with her peers as she’s graduating high school. I did not make my child’s daycare decision lightly.

But today…today my gut told me to look elsewhere. And all because of this $2 billion election and because men and women who normally agree on the majority of things have singled out the minority of things to disagree upon.

Today’s event: I got to Elle’s school at 4:15ish and followed another Dad into the room. Elle was thrilled to see me and me her. Her teachers told her they loved her, rubbed her back, updated me on her day. It was everything I would hope for my child’s care.

Everything.

And then, I went to the touch screen computer where I punch Elle in and out everyday (kind of like work, right?!). And there, attached to the counter, directly below the screen, was a print out.

This print out.

And my stomach turned.

In fact, ironically, it flip-flopped.

I was absolutely sickened by what I had seen. And I didn’t know how to react. I took a breath, I walked to the car with Elle in my arms, conscious of not embarrassing her or myself or Jon or our families who have to come in and out everyday.

I wanted to leave and drive home and let it go.

I truly did.

But I couldn’t.

I’ve felt silenced in this election, felt ostracized, felt sometimes as though my views should be hushed because it’s not worth the controversy.

And today was the straw.

I was sick that the employees of the SCHOOL where I send my child may be being bullied into thinking one way or another. I was sickened that the owners and management should be so absolutely biased – outwardly so – regarding their personal and business preferences. I was terrified that the views of the owners and managers – and thereby the school’s employees – would be transferred onto my child.

I felt as though school were a safe place.

I turned around, I punched my security code into the door and walked into the manager’s office.

“Ummm…” I started, unsure of what was going to come out next.

Rather ungracefully, I continued,”I’m really bothered by that list you’ve got at the computer…I’m just uncomfortable with it…”

The manager looks at me like a deer in headlights, as though she perhaps had never thought that there were people in the world who thought differently than her.

“I don’t know,” I say, throwing up my hands. “It just bothers me.”

And I walk out.

I didn’t have a tone. I wasn’t upset. I just wanted MY VOICE TO BE HEARD. Which is something that I don’t know will happen anywhere else this election season. It was that I considered Elle’s daycare a safe place — and today it wasn’t. It became just as ugly a battleground as Ohio.

I was upset. I was shaken. I came home and woke Jon and told him what had happened, and he told me that this is what we can expect, when political groups are encouraging employers to sway the votes of their employees. That this is the new normal. That Jon wasn’t upset I’d woken him attests to the fact that the situation merited being bothered.

I tell my Dad and my Uncle Bill. They shake their heads. But there is nothing to say.

I go to Jon’s parents, looking for guidance and insight I’m sure they can offer.

And there really isn’t any.

This is the climate of politics in our world today.

I decided I would sleep on it, I would decide in the morning if it warranted a note to the school’s owner. I didn’t want to react on emotion alone, I wanted experience, education and insight to guide my way. I did not want to embarrass anyone – my daughter, my fiancee, or the rest of our families.

And I returned home tonight, checked my email, already having the blog begun and the title of this blog post in mind.

And then, from the owner:

“I wanted to personally apologize for the front desk posting. I completely agree with you and I am thankful you voiced your concern to Bxxxxx. It was removed immediately.
Although we may want to support ending abortion that is simply not the time or place.

My apologies, “

I was heartened by her truly heartfelt and quick response. I was glad to have spoken up.

But that last sentence.

…although…support ending abortion…not the time or place…

I had actually hoped that I had been reading more into it being posted from “Right to Life” than was necessary. I had hoped that it was ignorance, where that posting came from, that it was just the website they happened upon. I was hoping it was complete naivete. I sort of hoped that they had simply printed any old email they’d gotten…but it seems it was on purpose. It was thoughtful, purposeful.

And it makes my body ache – almost more now, after reading the response. I believe that they love the children they care for. I believe they have the best in mind for the families they serve.

But what – what – do they hope to accomplish for the women raising and rearing the children they entrust to them the large part of most days? By forcing their views (in my opinion, by even HAVING those views on women’s reproductive rights) what do they do for the women they watch struggle to pay the daycare bill on time, get to drop-off and pick-up on time? Where does the absence of options get us in any situation, especially this one?

It’s not simply about me – it’s about respect for WOMEN – all women that walk through the door of your business. It is about understanding your role as a touchpoint of your local community. It is about having faith – true faith – in more than god and religion, but in the human condition and its resilience in the face of adversity – whether that is parenting or NOT parenting.

Out of curiosity, I looked it up. You can too, here.

There is no reason for this to be an issue that divides us, that triggers participation in your democratic duty to vote.

There is no reason for this to keep us up at night, for this to be the reason that an individual votes one way or another. But it should absolutely be the reason that you maintain your voice, so that if you encounter a situation like I did today, that you can speak up, you can voice your opinion diplomatically, and move on. And live to work and play together another day.

Perhaps Congress should take note.

And the politics should stay out of daycare.