|The other day I was accused of being a *.*st. Specifically, racist. Naturally, that outburst hurt my heart, and my knee-jerk reaction was NO, I’M NOT!!!! You don’t know me and don’t know what you are talking about.
(Sidebar: Having learned that public spats are not in my best interest, I kept all thoughts to myself and tried unsuccessfully to remain expressionless.)
I extended the courtesy of silence and attempted to listen in a non-confrontational way. But, unfortunately, I learned very quickly that I am indeed racist. Simply by virtual of the fact that I am not brown, black, yellow, or red. I am white.
Being a white woman comes with its own set of problems/opportunities. And because I have absolutely no experience outside of my own, I have no idea what built-in biases still exist inside me.
In my career, the battle I chose to fight was equity.
I took pains to move the needle as far as possible – and for far too many days, it felt permanently stuck.
Plus, every time I have ever talked to an enlightened male, the comments were almost always the same. “I do not see women as less than men. I have never ever not paid a woman what she was worth. I made a conscious decision to promote women. And I’ve had several women work for me.” Every. Single. Time.
Yet is there a white man alive who understands what it means to stand in a woman’s shoes? To be treated as an object, not a valued colleague. To be paid far less money than what he thinks he is worth? To be ignored in favour of another loud and empty male?
Today, the battles have morphed into – equity, racism, sexuality, and ablism – and that’s just for starters.
Have you noticed these days how many of us say, “I do not discriminate; I treat everyone equally regardless of their sex, race or sexual preference. I respect everyone and, in fact, have many minority groups as friends and colleagues.” Or some similar version?
Yet, let’s get real for a moment.
What do we really know about discrimination if we are white and straight? How can we even understand the simple act of inhabiting a new country with a different language and culture when all we’ve done for our entire lives is live in the country we were born in? How can we begin to think about same-sex when we still navigate the world on tiptoes as our own sex? How can we understand what it is like to be deaf, blind, or wheelchair-bound when we do not contend with those issues daily?
My point is that we are ALL racist, sexist, discriminatory, and ignorant—you AND me. In our lived experience, we have no idea what it is like to live as a different sex, nationality, sexuality, and even differently abled. Our lived experience is limited to ONLY ourselves. So no matter how much we protest and exclaim we are NOT, the sad truth is that we ARE.
Two ladies — one black and one brown — came up with a really cool way to challenge ourselves and our ideas. They call it Race2Dinner. It is a regular dinner party thrown all around the country and is based partly on the book Deconstructing Karen. CBC is streaming an hour-long version of one of the dinner parties here.
What hit me hard was how effective uncomfortable conversations over a meal really are. Talk about messy and imperfect.
It has nothing to do with changing our viewpoint. Or converting us. Or showing us the errors in our thoughts. It has everything to do with discovering and uncovering the truths and untruths in our viewpoint.
And that is the best way to begin to change our thinking for the better.
Imagine if we stopped with all the ‘trying to educate/trying to convert’ that goes on in the diversity, equity and inclusion space/movement. Imagine if we had a meal with ‘the offending parties’ to discover and open our eyes to a bigger-than-us world.
Imagine if we changed our viewpoint from *.*ist to ANTI.
What if we started with – maybe there is a kernel of truth that I am part of the problem, and I can change that to being ANTI-inequity, ANTI-racist, ANTI-sexist, and ANTI-ablist?
Imagine the impact we could make!