Speak your mind even if your voice shakes

Aug 7, 2006 by     6 Comments    Posted under: life, reflection, social issues

That is a bumper sticker quote I read today on my blog buddy’s site – St Tropez Butler.

I’m a Libra and typical to the sign, I hate confrontation. Last week was Pride week and on Saturday, Lise and I attended some of the festivities in downtown Windsor. One of the emcees was a local radio talk show hostess who said something that really bothered me.

A drag queen had performed in a pink 60s-style suit with a little pink pillbox-like hat. When she was finished the radio hostess commented about how the costume reminded her of Jackie O. The male emcee quipped that he didn’t know that Jackie was Black and the talk show hostess said, “Well, I don’t see colour.”

My friend, who is also a woman of colour, asked me if I had heard what the radio hostess just said and if it had bothered me as much as it bothered her. I said that I had indeed heard and that, yes, it did bother me. We talked a bit about the ignorance of the well-intentioned and how frustrating it was and kind of joked that the job of educating the well-intentioned might be best left to someone younger who was still idealistic.

As I sat there and watched the next performer I thought about how that woman probably had no idea what effect the impact of her words had. I thought that as a local personality in a public venue, she should have some understanding of what it feels like to hear someone say what she had said.

So, almost not of my own volition, I found myself walking up to her. I introduced myself and shook her hand and said, “I heard you say that you don’t see colour.” She smiled and nodded. Then, as kindly as I know how and trying hard not to let my voice shake, I said, “I suppose that means that you don’t see people who look like me.”

I won’t get into all the details of our exchange but I will say that it quickly became unpleasant as she responded as if I had accused her of trying to burn a cross on my front lawn. All I could do is sadly turn away from her and wonder why it’s always the well-intentioned who become so defensive and attack in such a way that it shuts off all further dialogue.

The entire encounter reminded me of why I no longer do diversity work. I’m getting too old for this crap.

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6 Comments + Add Comment

  • You are not old; with your heart you never will be!

    She sounds like one of those people trying to convince herself as well as everyone else…

    We have people coming in to our plant from all over the country now as GM rearranges the workforce. Suddenly some “k”‘s have popped up where I know they weren’t the other week. A few years ago it was swastikas (someone got fired over that one, I heard). I too, am disappointed that this crap still exists!

    alan

  • I used to think that “not seeing color” was a good thing. I have been educated otherwise, by a best friend who is mixed-race and by several other friends. I see now that to love in spite of is not really love, and that you don’t get a realistic view of another person if you can’t understand what makes them different from you.

    You tried. She may get it later. She may hear it again, and finally get it.

    *hug*

  • Barbara, if it’s any comfort (probably not) it bothered me too.

    Hang in there–the fight is worth it!

    (And you’re not old yet, by a long shot, youngster!)

    Martha

  • Hi Barbara, how have things been going? I’ve missed reading your blog.

    paul

  • She did NOT mean it to be racist. What she meant is – “the drag queen reminded me of jackie o”. Joe McParland then said “but jackie o isn’t black” – at which point the radio host said the comment.
    she did not mean “i do not recognize diversity”. she just meant she wasn’t taking “colour” into account when she said that the drag queen reminded her of jackie o. jackie is very white. the drag queen was very obviously not white. she did not make colour an issue – because it was NOT an issue in her statement that the drag queen reminded her of jackie o. if anyone made it an issue – it was joe mcparland. the hostess was just making an (accurate) statement about the drag queen. she looked like Jackie O. End of story. and in one more defense – i do not “notice” when someone is of a colour either. i recognize that white people DO have an privelege OVER visible and non-visible minorities…but when approached by anyone – i do not right away think: “Oh wow…a chinese girl” or “Oh..here comes a nice looking east-indian boy..” or “Oh neat..I wonder what this black person is going to ask me..” – i see a person first-and-foremost. we’re all the same in my book – and i think in a perfect society – NONE of us WOULD see colour. we would see only INDIVIDUAL diversity and everyone would be eqaully-different. but that’s just my own little eutopia.

  • Sounds like the crap is the chip on the shoulders of people like you who are “offended” at the drop of a hat. Get real and get a different attitude! Maybe they just saw a pink outfit, even thought it was being worn by a black queer.