At a meeting discussing diversity earlier this week, I was essentially called a racist.
By a complete stranger who completely misinterpreted my comment – “So, should we include these folks?”
I was talking about “folks” in other states in the region, which was the topic we were discussing. She was talking about “folks” in terms of the lack of diversity in the room, which was disturbing to me too.
At first, I felt attacked. I was the token community college person in the room (the rest of the attendees were from the R01 university down the street) and I had already been attacked once for stating something I thought was pretty obvious (it wasn’t). So, I was feeling pretty powerless by the time this comment was made.
After being called a racist and clarifying that I was talking about regionality, I just shut down. The only other comment I made was to amplify the comment by the one Native in the room, for which I was immediately attacked by one of the white guys in the room.
I was pissed. And I thought “I give up” several times. And after the meeting was over, my friend who had originally invited me to the meeting asked if I would ever attend another meeting he invited me to.
I, of course, said yes.
In the midst of processing the meeting and my ensuing reaction, it struck me that maybe my position of powerlessness in this meeting was important. Because, as my friend @DrRubidium says regularly, white privilege is a hell of a drug. I had not experienced this kind of powerlessness before. So I did not know how to process it well.
Maybe this experience gave me the slightest glimpse into what many diverse voices on Twitter have been stating for years.
Maybe, just maybe, if I listened closely and tried harder to be more intersectional and more inclusive, I could turn this experience into something more positive. Something that helps me understand and look for those with less power than I have. And to amplify and give them as much power as I can.