Apathy – lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.
Acceptance – 1.the action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered. 2. the action or process of being received as adequate or suitable, typically to be admitted into a group.
I am ashamed to admit that there have been times, where my apathy has been to benefit my acceptance. For this, I apologise. This has been bothering me for some time. With our society currently in a discussion and dissection of systemic racism, I know that there have been moments, where, in order to maintain my position in an organization, I did nothing or was apathetic. And that was to ensure that I was viewed as a part of the organization and not as an outsider.
As I am a woman of South Asian/West Indian descent, feeling like an outsider, throughout my career, has been constant and never ending.
To date, I have never had a superior that was non white, and very few women in the role. As a member of partnerships, I have for many years, been the “only”.
And there have been times, when I have been subject to subtle and overt racism, and sexism, and have said nothing. That’s my burden to bear. However, when I have been silent when watching it occur to peers, that is what I apologize for.
A friend of mine and I worked together for a brief period of time. He is Black. While we worked together, our superior constantly forgot his last name and referred to his last name, as Brown. Get it – because that was the colour of his skin! I forever would correct the superior, but in a polite manner, even though his use of this last name, was not being done politely. It was rude and racist. And even though I was correcting him, and chastising him, I knew that I had to be careful, because if I was too overt about calling this out to be racist, given that he was my superior, that could be the end of my career at the firm. But it has always bothered me, because it was just wrong.
Or when another friend of mine and myself, who was also Black, had to be subjected to this same superior retelling a skit he had seen on the Dave Chappelle show about the N$*#) Family. And this superior took great glee in recounting this skit, word for word, enjoying his use of the N word. I remember again thinking, this is just wrong. Our superior could tell we were both uncomfortable, because he was perceptive, but that fed into the moment of racial superiority and impunity for disgusting behaviour. And again, I was apathetic. I said nothing.
And ultimately, I did not want to be in the presence of this racist behaviour or be associated with it, and I left.
But what makes me so happy about the movement, the changes and the accountability that is going on, is that no one is seeking acceptance to fit in. Apathy is viewed as being complicit and so, you are either for the change and supportive of it, or you are not.
And people are having to rethink on their past (blackface photos, racist posts and language) and having to account for this behaviour.
Because actions from 20 years ago, 10 years ago, 5 years ago –
people knew right from wrong,
racist from non racist,
sexist from non sexist,
homophobic from non-homophobic… the list goes on.
If I knew and felt at that time, that the behaviour was racist or sexist, then the deliverer of these remarks, also knew. They just knew that they could, because of their place in the hierarchy of power. And now this power structure is being attacked and dissected and being held accountable.
And this is not a bad thing. And because now, I am in a position to hold people accountable, I do. And I will never allow the need for acceptance to result in my apathy. I don’t need to be accepted. I know what I bring to the table. My value speaks for itself.
In the words of Sam Cooke, A Change is gonna come.
But that’s one Diva’s view.