Hey Grown Women,
One of the core principals of Grown Woman Life is that grown women leverage life’s lessons.
We have experiences positive and negative, that serve to evolve our knowledge, behavior, character, and approach. I believe growth can only happen if you are acknowledging these experiences and trying to capture the lessons in real-time. This is my way of sharing my lessons with you!
I am lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel for work.
I love the opportunity to people watch. I should mention that I am an introvert that behaves like an extravert. I am equally happy to sit back and watch people and observe as I am to engage and have chats with people I would otherwise not have the opportunity to meet.
On this Friday night, I had worked all day, gotten to the airport; my plane had been delayed multiple times. I found a corner in a restaurant ordered some nachos and a good stiff drink and just wanted to decompress.
I am an 80’s girl and love 80’s music, which happens the be the music track playing. I was thrilled. I am sure I was bobbing my head and singing along (not loudly), so I was not surprised when with the gentleman sitting two tables away, asked me about the Paula Abdul song playing. I answered and made a comment and went back to my snack and decompressing. A couple of songs played, and a Bobbie Brown song came out, again the gentlemen engaged me, we chatted a bit. The pattern continued, Aretha came on, and he engaged. The pattern broke a bit when a Talking Heads song came on, and he said he would be “really impressed” if I knew who was singing this song. At this time, I asked for the check. For context, I am a black woman, and this was a white man.
That night, in my exhaustion, frankly, I just thought the guy was a racist prick. The thought that he only engaged me when black artists played and would be surprised if I recognized a white group played pissed me off and offended me.
However, I have lived enough and faced enough racist situations in my life as a dark-skinned woman of color that I knew enough to know I didn’t feel the malice or blatant ignorance that often accompanies racism.
As a diversity leader and advocate, I owed it to this gentleman and myself to get to the root cause of this situation.
When we are tired and frustrated (nevertheless adding alcohol into the mix), our lenses are often skewed.
I believe this gentleman was genuinely trying to make conversation and was attempting to kindly related to me in a way where he was engaging me in things in which he thought I could relate.
His assumption of how I would relate came through HIS biases, which I believe was unconscious.
My initial reaction that he was a racist prick came through MY conscious biases. I have often thought if I had been willing to move over and engage in a conversation regarding my love of 80’s music, would the outcome be different? If I had taken the time to say to him, “Dude, I recognize Bon Jovi, U2, Duran Duran in equal measure to Grace Jones, Tina Turner and Michael Jackson.” would that have been a step in eradicating a bias?
No one is exempt from biases, and as a woman of color, I am no exception. When we see biases, we have to remember that the opportunity to discuss should supersede our emotions. To make progress, we have to have conversations. Eradicating bias is a collective responsibility that will only happen when we are willing to recognize our own.