Updated: Feb 8
I wrote this blog post because I’m concerned. My concern is not new; I just felt compelled to write about it now. Race is a social construct, which is the basis of racism and discrimination. Therefore, racism and discrimination were created to divide us and are from a foundation of hate. Love is so desperately needed now, and truthfully, hate cannot exist where love is. Many people are very angry lately, and it appears we have lost our way. We need empathy, kindness, respect, and we especially need love, which are as foundational as the ability to think, see, hear, taste, and touch. We must do better. We can do better. I believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but it will take a lot of work to get there.
In 2016, I met a White lady who works in the university where I previously worked. We were members of a joint committee, and then as fate would have it, we met again on another committee in the university. I thought it was a strange coincidence that we found ourselves on the same two committees in a large university. She spoke to me first, and I reciprocated; we had a friendly exchange. I thought it would be nice to connect with a peer in the university who would be a potential ally.
We had lunch on occasion during work hours, and our conversations were interesting for the most part. My work acquaintance learned about my family, and I learned about hers. Overall, I thought she was a nice person and thought I had someone to connect with at the university until a few red flags began to show.
The First Red Flag
One day, we were on a bus trip going to an off-site meeting. The off-site meeting took place during the time that the former president was on his campaign trail. Somehow, he became a topic of conversation, and I was stunned to discover that she supported him and that we didn’t share the same viewpoint concerning our political values.
When I mentioned some of the things the former president did that I didn’t particularly care for, her response was, “I don’t care about any of that stuff.” I was shocked. I don’t have a problem with anyone’s political party choice. Whether you’re Republican or Democrat, it is vital to choose the person who aligns with your morals and values. Apparently, my work acquaintance and I don’t share the same values.
During the trip to the off-site meeting, when I stated that I wasn’t going to vote for the former president, she anxiously and excitedly pulled out her cell phone and said she wanted me to see something. She showed me several videos of Black people supporting the former president. I was highly insulted by what she attempted to do. It seemed like she thought that she could persuade me to suddenly support him just because other Black people decided to support him. She minimized me by thinking that I would align myself with what others do because they are Black like me.
While showing me the videos, she laughed and commented how she loved watching the
[Black] people in the videos show their support for the former president. At that point, I wanted to find another seat, but I stayed in my seat and sat there disgusted and frustrated, holding back my anger because I didn’t want to be labeled “The Angry Black Woman.” However, just because I didn’t react in a visibly angry way doesn’t mean I wasn’t angry. I just controlled myself like many of us do in situations like that.
Another Red Flag
We met for lunch again a short while ago. Before this lunch date, and after that revealing bus ride to the off-site meeting, I viewed my work acquaintance as a person who could possibly be brainwashed to believe anything.
The restaurant where we went for lunch was close to her job, and I picked her up on the way. When she got in my car, she saw me with my mask on and made a very derogatory and insensitive comment. Her comment was straight out of the former administration’s playbook. I believe she said, “Oh no, is that what we’re doing? Her comment took me by surprise, especially because she’s not vaccinated. At that point, I should have gone to lunch alone, but I digress.
My response to her was simple -- I wore my mask to protect her and me. The protection for her was because she’s not vaccinated, and since she took such a cavalier attitude about the mask, it’s safe to say that she’s probably not wearing a mask regularly. Therefore, I don’t want to be an asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19 because of her lackadaisical attitude.
And Another Red Flag
During lunch, we discussed race relations while talking about our children. I spoke about how it’s challenging to raise a Black son because of what he may contend with as a Black man. I am extremely proud he is doing well for a person his age; however, I told her that I must guide him in his movements, so nothing bad happens to him. Then, she had the deer in headlights look, and she said, “Aww, that makes me sad.” When she said that, I felt her tone was of pity – not one of genuine concern. It was patronizing.
The conversation shifted, and I began to sense a bit of racial tone-deafness when out of nowhere she stated that her niece is pregnant by a Black man. I wasn’t quite sure why she felt the need to share that. Maybe she tried to convey that she is not racist like some people. So, I asked why she shared that story. My work acquaintance had the “deer in headlights” look again and appeared clueless, and then she said, “I don’t see color.”
The Final Red Flag
When my work acquaintance said, “I don’t see color,” I was disappointed and hurt. The statement, “I don’t see color,” is a racially tone-deaf demeaning comment, which can cause Black people to feel minimized, invisible, ignored, and not heard. I immediately felt very uncomfortable.
The conversation then took another turn. My work acquaintance was aware of a few discriminatory things that have happened to me in the work environment, which weighed, in part, on my decision to leave the university. Then she mentioned that she didn’t like the new rules at the university related to COVID-19, and she decided to apply for a position at another university.
When my work acquaintance went to the website of another university to complete an application, she had to answer a question, which pertained to the applicant’s view on promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). DEI is currently a hot topic in areas like higher education and Corporate America since the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020.
She said to me that she didn’t know how to respond to the question, and Google searched “what can a White person do to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion?” I could tell that she was visibly uncomfortable sharing with me the information that she received from Google. According to her, the search concluded that she would have to show that she does not condone White privilege.
Then came her bombshell question to me. She asked…” Do you think I’m privileged?” I replied, “Yes.” Again, she had a shocked, seemingly unaware “deer in headlights” look on her face. She attempted to convince me that she wasn’t because of how she grew up. My response was, “Oh, okay.” I kept my answer short and didn’t know what else to say because at that point I was mentally drained.
Where Do We Go From Here?
I’m glad she researched how to promote DEI in the workplace; however, she is quite racially tone-deaf in how she speaks, and to be honest, I don’t have the energy to teach her Race Relations 101. However, she can do her own research and learn about race relations, etc. by gaining more understanding about people and how to be empathetic. There are many books available on the topic.
When the eye-opening conversation on racism and privilege ended, I tried to talk about something else. I was uncomfortable with her racial tone-deafness because she seriously appeared to be living without a complete understanding of the societal woes concerning race.
I wish she and others would see color in a positive way so that we could work toward abolishing racism. But, the bottom line is – we can accomplish all things with love and nothing with hate. There is so much for humanity to gain if we were all on one accord. There is power and strength when we empathize with others, which is where real change begins. Truth be told, we have more similarities than differences, and humanity needs to recognize that and stop turning away from issues that are uncomfortable. We must learn to get along, respect and love one another, and embrace who we are.
Live, laugh, love, and pray.
God Bless You with Good Health and Wellness,
Antoinette Shar’ron Johnson
“Empowering, inspiring, motivating, and uplifting your mind, body, and soul!”
Images from Canva