- Posted August 26, 2013 by
Forest Park, Illinois
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Everyday racism: Your stories
"The black table is over there"
I was looking forward to my very first course, actually called "diversity programs" and it was aimed at finding other associations that were like yours and sharing experiences and learning from your colleagues. I was dressed in a suit and tie, in the hopes that people wouldn't take my age as a factor in my experience level or ability.
I walk into the room while looking for the "medical society" table, since that was the type of association I was currently working for and a woman walks up to me, without saying hi and says, "The black table is right over there," while pointing to a table in the far corner. Her assumption was that since I was black that I must work for an association for black people. I was taken aback my first response was, "so this is how we are going to start today?" Her response of "Oh sorry, hi, I am Lori" did not help either. I introduced myself and moved on not really knowing how to take in all that I had just heard.
Later that day, I tell the story to my boss, mentor (and most importantly my friend) and she is just infuriated that this happens. She spends the rest of the day trying to find someone of importance to relay this story and how it was completely unacceptable.
Eventually, we continue on with the conference focused on learning although that unfortunate situation had left a bad taste in my mouth. A few days later, emails start flying back and forth between a few employees of AFP and my boss about the situation. They all had mentioned how it was a big mistake and how this woman was a great person and was just "busy" and "did not mean it."
Its not that I did not believe them, I did. I understood what they were trying to say. Which made my shame all that worse. Eventually, the woman herself reached out to me to explain what she had done was a mistake and that she was sorry.
What was truly sorry was to her and her colleagues made it sound like what she had done was acceptable because she was "busy" and that she is a good person.
I never doubted her moral standing as a good person, but at that moment I could not have felt more shame as a human being being told that it was ok to make racist statements to people because it was an honest mistake because she was "busy."
In all honesty, an "I am sorry" and a "it is completely unacceptable and inexcusable under any circumstance" is really all I needed. I felt like I had tried my hardest to present myself with professionalism with my attire, attitude and ability and in that moment she made that comment it all disappeared.
No, its not as scarring as the "N-word" or I am sure other stories that many people of different races, colors and creeds can attest to(myself included), however it was symbolic for something small and deemed a "mistake" helps continue to propel negative stereotypes and subconscious racist type of attitudes.