I had a wonderful experience last Saturday. Two best buddies and a new buddie attended an event together; “Sips, Senses, and Goals: A Vision Board Party With A Twist.”
There were mimosas, goal planning, lots of laughter, women telling inspirational stories, and new friends. It was a splendid day. I learned new things about my friends and heard personal, uplifting stories from women who are driven to achieve their goals and change the world. I love events like this, and this one was well done.
The added bonus for me is that one of my friends and I were the only two white attendees.
I’ve been pondering this from a variety of angles.
I’ve been pondering my privilege. The event was presented by all Black women, so it wasn’t shocking to me that it was majority Black women attending. I purchased my ticket and sauntered in the door of the event, expecting to be welcomed. That is privilege.
That is an assumption I unconsciously carry with me every day, all the time, everywhere. I’ve carried that attitude around the world, from Italy to Costa Rica, from Ireland to Mali. From tiny villages to fancy restaurants. I expect to be treated well any where I choose to go.
I guarantee that is not the case for some of the Brown and Black women I enjoyed spending my day with. I’ve learned enough to recognize this, and I’m listening and learning more. And what a sickening lesson it is.
I also saw some of what I miss. The spirit of connection, of Sisterhood, was palpable.
Events like this certainly draw women of a certain “type.” We’re a pretty readily motivated crowd; but the energy and enthusiasm had a very different feel than events with all white women. I’m trying to be careful to not stereotype; hence I’m truly speaking from my own experience here. I have spoken to groups of all white women; and support will be offered through soft murmurs or a touch on the shoulder to encourage a speaker who is sharing something difficult. We may even break into spontaneous applause if especially thrilled by a comment.
The crowd we were with was more verbally supportive; more vigorous head nods, more “Baptist Preacher” phrasing, “Am I right, my sisters?”
I loved being “a sister” for this one afternoon.
My personality craves open, honest connection with people, and this group of women was ripe for delightful, splendid conversation. I learned new things about my friends I came with, new things about new friends, and new things about myself. I listened to entrepreneurs discuss their business beginnings and the ups and downs. We heard from people who have turned their lives around; women who have grabbed hold of their internal power and set it on fire to light up the world. Amazing, fantastic, interesting women.
What if my presence changed the experience for other women? Simply by being white, did I possibly steal some of the richness of the event for anyone? (Notice I am assuming that my personality would not be repugnant in and of itself. You may choose to disagree.)
I pray I didn’t cause any feelings of anxiety or anguish for anyone. The day was splendid on every level, and I hope others felt the same.
But, it’s worth considering. I certainly know Black people who have dealt with such frequent ill treatment by white folks that white folks no longer get any benefit of the doubt. I can appreciate that.
I certainly won’t lose my inner belief that I can go anywhere and do anything, but I am going to continue listening and learning and being willing to be lead by Women of Color and the many lessons they have to teach me.