Painful regret about an assumption made.

Anonymous
Ann Arbor, MI

The year was 1997. I was part of a small committee selecting MBAs for highly sought-after internships in China. I wasn’t prepared to be tested on my passionate belief that skin color doesn’t matter. But I am white. And when another white colleague said, “this candidate is African American, he might have a hard time with the racist views in China” I assumed my colleague was right. I agreed with my silence. While I no longer remember exactly, I believe the African American MBA candidate was offered an internship opportunity in a different country, like Poland. It was only a few weeks later that my passive acquiescence to a totally racist decision hit me in the face. Certainly an African-American MBA student at the University of Michigan had successfully handled racism in a wide variety of situations his entire life. Who were we, as whites sitting isolated in our meeting, to decide whether he could handle what China would dish out? Most likely, he would have been brilliant, thus helping a few Chinese people to also lose some of their racism. Instead, I was part of allowing the problem to persist. It’s a shameful memory. The only bright spot is that there is a painful scar, that now reminds me to be more watchful and outspoken against whites deciding “what’s best” for people of color. You can think it no longer happens where you live, until you do it yourself.

Keep the conversation going - comment and discuss with your thoughts

  • Kevin

    Thank you for such an honest review of your actions. As a black man, I have to continually check my assumptions and remain open to greatness in all forms.

  • LeftistLiz

    Thank you for sharing this story. It is fabulous.

  • Isabelle

    Based on my own experience in China and other countries where citizens have little to no interaction with people from other races, their reaction is more of curiosity than what we would consider racism. As a white, blond-haired, blue-eyed woman in China, I was asked by Chineese if I would be in a picture with them just as much as my Nigerian friend.

  • Patricia

    Thanks for your thoughtful reflection. I am going to share this with my grad studies colleagues in International Multicultural Education.

 

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