• Carmen Milligan

Opinionated Posts from a White Woman

I love Emmanuel Acho's "Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man". It is honest, sometimes raw, and always illuminating. In one of his openings, he says that he never intended for it to be a monologue, but a dialogue, encouraging viewers to have dialogues of our own.

Since I am posting on my blog, I am going to have a post. If you'd like a dialogue based on what you read, let me know.

First, stop saying that you are colorblind, or that you don't see color. Have you noticed that only white people use this phrase? Just stop. Of course you see color. It's the first thing you see. It's the single most prevalent characteristic, above sex, hair, eyes, and anything else I could list. Everyone. Sees. Color. So, stop pretending that you don't.

Stop thinking that you are not racist. Everyone is a little bit racist. Everyone. That's because we naturally feel more at ease with people who look like we do. It's innate in us, and helped us to survive. Scientific studies are numerous on why people naturally flock to others who are look, think, and act like them. That may be two women in a group of men, two whites in a group of Asians, or two toddlers in a sea of adults.

Back to my plea to stop thinking you are not a racist. The strict definition of racist is believing that the way you look is the best way to look (and that is an oversimplification of a very complex word). Let's be honest, here. This feeling is hard-wired into us from the time we crawled out of the sea. Humans feel superior to animals, men feel superior to women, white Europeans feel superior to ... well, it seems everyone. HOWEVER, acting on this deep-seated feeling is where we are going wrong. Very wrong.

Wondering what it was that got me on this soapbox today? I was thinking about being a woman. A strong, intelligent, opinionated, headstrong, vocal, outgoing, energetic, witty woman. Women like me get fired. Women like me are talked to in a way that a man would never hear. It happened to me last week. A man wrote this to me in an email: "Let us know if you do not fully understand and need additional training". Three others were copied on this email, including a director.

Let you know if I do not fully understand what? That you are being an asshole? That you would never have written these words to a man? That you are condescending and don't hesitate to take out frustration and pressure on a lowly admin? Oh, I understand. I understand perfectly.

A coworker at my last company, Jackie, was always someone on which I could depend. If it looked impossible, I called Jackie. If I hit a brick wall, I called Jackie. She got all of the information she needed, and she ran with it. I usually didn't hear from her again until she called me with the answer or solution to my issue. She got shit done, and I loved having her on the team. She was opinionated, loud, a little bossy, and a little pushy. Sometimes honey, but more often than not, vinegar.

On a side note, do you know how to tenderize tough meat? Vinegar. Just saying. Well, that or you can beat the ever-loving shit out of it. That also works.

Back to Jackie. She wanted, deserved, and asked for a promotion. Several time. Passed up each time. White man after white man seated in positions above her. Less experience, less knowledge, less investment in the company. I would love to say it was because she was a strong woman, but we may never really know. What happened to her? She was let go.

My friend Laura was passed over again and again for a director position in our company. Laura got shit done. Sometimes she used honey and sometimes she used vinegar. But she got it done. She got the answers, provided the result, accomplished the task. She spoke truth to power. Her thanks? She was let go.

Every reasonable and thinking person knows that they are not actually THE BEST. There is always someone faster, smarter, more talented, blah, blah, blah. Where we are going wrong is that we don't give that consideration to everyone we meet. Everyone we ever come into contact with should be viewed as someone who has the potential to teach us something, show us something, help us grow in some way. Likewise, we should always be open to teaching someone else (but never assume that we actually HAVE something to teach).

It's a difficult balance. And it's a fully intentional balance. Meaning, this doesn't come naturally. You have to consciously keep yourself open. Constantly check yourself, your thoughts, your assumptions, and your actions/responses. Check your respect, your attitude, your words, your body language.

Stop saying you don't see color, and start respecting it for what it is: a human being. A diversity. A difference. An opportunity.

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