The idea for “Going There” came about as a result of the 31 Days In My Brown Skin series I wrote in October, 2012. (You can read those posts here.) The series generated a lot of valuable dialogue, and when the thirty-one days were over, it felt as if the conversation wasn’t done. So, I invite you to share your story as it relates to issues of race, ethnicity, and culture in your every day life.
The goal of “Going There” is to encourage ongoing dialogue about topics of race, ethnicity, and culture in a way that is thoughtful and that shows respect, with the goal of advancing our understanding of the beautiful diversity in the humanity that surrounds us. Interested in sharing your story? Start here. Today’s post is written by Alexis Goring.
While I have a great deal of respect for Eleanor Roosevelt as a former First Lady of the United States of America, I do not agree with her famous quote which says, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Why? Because people have on numerous occasions have made me, as a minority and a Black woman, feel inferior without my consent.
Allow me to share a very vivid memory from my life story thus far where I was made to feel “less than” compared to mainstream America:
It was my first year as an elementary school teacher. I was getting into the groove of the daily routine and was beginning to feel good about myself as a new teacher having finally conquered classroom management amongst other mandates of being an educator. My days were productive as I continued to learn the ropes of working in the education industry and I loved—simply adored—my wonderful class of young students.
One day, a colleague of mine—we’ll call her M— stopped by my classroom with a very beautiful birthday card which she wanted me to sign for one of our colleagues who was very close to M. I didn’t recognize the designer of the card (I’m used to seeing the popular DaySpring, Mahogany and Hallmark cards at the stores), so I asked my colleague where she got the card from because I’d never seen one like it. And then it happened, M closed in the gap between us so that she was standing directly in front of me—somewhat in my personal space—and lowered her voice so the students who were working on their morning assignment at their desks would not hear her words. Making direct eye contact and speaking in a quiet voice that only I could hear, she told me, “It’s nothing you would find around here. I got it from Harris Teeter in Potomac. It’s very rich, White…”
I shook my head and said, “I don’t live here,” and the conversation came to an abrupt halt as I finished signing the card and returned my attention to my students. But silently, I was offended. Why was I offended? Because in those three sentences M made me feel inferior without my consent.
Here’s vital background information you will need in order understand my being upset about this situation: At the time, I worked for a school district in an area that was considered very poor if not even “ghetto” which meant it was a poverty-stricken place where fancy or upscale stores were nonexistent. M is a white woman who lives a very privileged life once saying how she lives in the “best part of town.” When M said the card she bought wouldn’t be found “here,” she didn’t just mean the school district, she meant the entire county in which we worked since it is considered an “urban” county where a lot of minorities reside.
All things considered, this situation made me feel very inferior without my consent. But honestly who ever gives anyone their consent to make you feel inferior? No one of any race in this world would willingly give someone their consent to make them feel “less than,” “unworthy,” or “not desired/good enough” as compared to the majority which in this case are those who identify themselves as non-Hispanic White people.
M’s words saddened me and honestly I’m still not 100 percent over it. But like any disappointment in life you learn to let it go and let God deal with it because forgiveness isn’t just for the other person it’s for you. Forgiving those who have made you feel inferior without your consent is the only way to have peace and heal from the pain they caused you. Let’s face it, when it comes to race relations in America, there’s a lot of pain and prevalent issues that hurt people on daily basis. My only call to action for anyone reading my guest post for Deidra’s “Going There” series is to please treat others the way you want to be treated. Your kindness could make a difference and save lives that are immersed in despair.
Alexis A. Goring is a freelance writer for mainstream and church media with a degree in Print Journalism and a background in teaching. She enjoys writing and connecting with people through words. Photography is her passion, right after writing. Alexis hopes her words will heal hearts, inspire change and educate people which in turn will help make the world a better place.