When I was a child, and would tell my grandmother I have seen it all – she would often respond, “just keep livin’.” In spite of all the ISMS trainings, workshops, and such that I have participated in – the different town hall discussions and work sessions I have gone through, I am always puzzled as to why the ignorance that is perpetuated within various forms of Isms (i.e. racism, sexism, ageism, etc.) is able to still thrive. I guess for me, as a young health professional of color, the more opportunities I get to have a seat at the table to inform critical decisions on how to better serve the community – the more opportunities I find myself being invisible to those that have been at that table for a long time, and are oblivious (I’m assuming) to the privilege they carry and assert.
It’s funny, whenever I respond to the ice breaker question: If you had a super power, what would it be? I always respond with the power of being invisible – so I can have the ability to get the “scoop” on things without being seen. How cool?! How awesome?! How powerful?!
It’s funny to me though, that in reality, that this “ability” is not seen as a power – that instead, when enacted, this characteristic is placed on you by others with the intent of “keeping you in your place” and preventing your voice, presence, and perspective from having an existence. How frustrating. How unfair. How powerless.
For example, recently I had an encounter with an individual that placed this super power on me. I had met them several times in similar forums (i.e. meetings, workshops, etc.) and have had fair amount of communication via e-mail, yet they spoke to me as if they had never met me before. More so, when I extended my hand to say hello – she just stared at me as she walked closer, totally by passing the salutation I was extending. Maybe since it’s cold and flu season, they don’t want to shake hands? I kinda doubt it – especially since they had briefly glanced at my hand, and never extended theirs in return. An awkward intro to what proved to be an awkward and uncomfortable conversation.
Them:(looking me up and down) Are you new? I have never seen you before.
Me: No, I have been in this field for quite some time, I have actually met you at various meetings and trainings.
Long pause –
I begin to try and help steer this convo for further going in to awkwardville, when we are approached by another individual who totally disregards my presence and launches into a personal conversation with who I will now refer to as the “bringer of invisibility.”
Again, I extend my hand to greet this interrupter, only to be disregarded again – the equivalent of being Heismanned – two times in a row!
In such a situation, I’d would hope that proper etiquette would have been implored – i.e. apologizing for disrupting a conversation, or apologize for allowing the “interrupter” to take over the conversation. But alas, that didn’t happen – the shell of invisibility that shrouded me became thicker and thicker. Was I being too sensitive? Was I in Bizarro world? In looking at my colleague, I quickly knew it was neither. My colleague was giving me the look of: Girl, you got dissed! You got the stop sign! You got kicked to the curb!!!
Yeap, that’s exactly what happened. This was further confirmed as the interrupter and “bringer of invisibility” walked away as they carried on their jovial conversation.
Situations in which ISMS or all around rudeness is prevalent burns my britches – but then I have to step back and realize that whatever problems they have with me or folks that look like me is their issue – not mine. But Lord, it’s all I can do to make sure that I avoid this: