This week we’re sharing a collection of emails colleagues have shared with us and fake responses we’ve come up with. These are the responses we can’t write back because they are a bit brusque and people would probably stop talking to us. The messages are heavily altered so if you think we’re writing about you, rest assured no one will know it is you unless you out yourself. Feel free to send me your favorite emails about race and equity, they might make a future post: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Email 1: “Save the Date for the Brain Trust on Housing for Refugees and Immigrants Please join us in creating a unified vision for supporting housing for immigrants and refugees in a way that that honors families, provides culturally responsive practice and is informed by national best practice.” Attendee invite list are academics, government agency reps, and elected officials. No one from the community, let alone newly arrived immigrants and refugees living in low income housing.
Email 2: Response when asked why the invite list didn’t include immigrants and refugees: “We have space limitations but we are hoping to get some names of folks that would be interested in being a part of future work that comes out of this meeting.” Smack forehead.
How do you expect to have a conversation about immigrants and refugee’s housing needs and their assets if the room is stacked with people who look and sound like you. That is called institutional racism. You may be shutting down and ready to delete this email because you don’t like admitting you work for a racist organization and are perpetuating racist practices, but you are. When we do things like have meetings to talk about others, which is code for people of color, without them in the room it is a form of racism and white supremacy.
You are probably thinking “they won’t come,” or “we don’t want to inconvenience people who say they are busy,” both are true but that means you need to change the system for which you are inviting them. Reallocate your resources and pay them to be there to give technical assistance. Now you’re probably saying we don’t have a budget — then stop paying so many white consultants who talk about the community and give it to people of color who are doing the work.
I’m refusing to participate because I can already predict how the conversation will go without immigrant and refugees there or in token roles. Good luck. Call me when you’re ready to change.
During a staff meeting the group worked on organizational values. This email exchange came out after one white leader objected to the word ‘diversity’ even though majority of the staff and all of the people of color voted on diversity:
“Respect is a more appropriate choice than diversity because it’s more applicable by definition than diversity. Diversity is such a loaded term, I don’t think there is a definition for diversity that will satisfy everyone in the organization.”
Dear Respectful Dipstick,
What is up with your resistance and white superiority? Are you afraid of ‘loaded’ terms like diversity? Is the word doing something to you that makes you feel unease? If so that unease is called White Superiority, with a touch of fragility. You are feeling the discomfort of realizing that others are different and its ok to be different. Why does everything have to cater to you and make you feel ok? I’m not ok with you being ok.
Respect is one value and diversity is another. Why can’t we have both? Your insisting we drop diversity and roll it into respect is disrespectful. If we must drop a value to appease the group’s artificial limit of values please drop joy, cause I’m not finding joy in this tone policing.
P.S. If you think diversity is controversial you should hear what my friends are talking about — racial equity, race, racism, anti-bias work, and topics you’re so not ready for. Diversity is so 1990s, get with it we’re going to leave you and your diversity work behind.
I’m on the board of Children Matter a Lot to Us nonprofit and we’re hoping to do more equity work. Since I know you from the golf team I’m hoping you’ll do some pro bono consulting work for us.
Dear Children Matter a Lot to Us,
Thank you for emailing and inquiring if I would like to work with you and the board. The short answer is no. I’ve met with your leadership team three times to ‘bid’ for contracts and you want to meet with me again? You guys seem to think I like hanging out with covertly racist people who think they are doing God’s work or something like that. No, this is a business for me and if I meet with you again, you can pay me my hourly rate of $500/hr, I’m charging you double because I know I’m not going to enjoy this meeting and to recoup part of my losses from the other three meetings with you.
I also have a practice of doing pro bono work for clients that align to my personal and professional values. If your organization is led by a person of color and your work is embedded and centered in communities of color let’s talk, otherwise pay up. You’re probably thinking “we don’t have money.” You do, you’ll find the money for things you prioritize and find important. How about stopping your payments to consultants who aren’t helping you reach communities of color and refocusing your dollars toward this or other efforts closer to communities of color. Good luck with your work.
I hope you are well and had a Happy Thanksgiving. I would like to meet up with you before Christmas, I have some thoughts I’d like to bounce off you during coffee or lunch. Please send me some dates and times you’re free.
Sent from an iPhone
Dear Dipstick who Wants Free Advice,
Thanks for the email. I see you sent this email from your iPhone, is it an iPhone 7? My Samsung 7 might blow up at any moment so let me be equally brief: No, I don’t want to meet with you.
You’ll get more out of meeting with than I will even with free food. I’m a sucker for free food, but you didn’t say where we’re eating so it could be anywhere from Columbia Tower Club to Chick-Fil-A where my people are not really welcomed.
The real reason I don’t want to meet is I don’t want to hear your ideas — I’ve heard them before from other rich people trying to get ‘woke.’ I feel like you’re using me to validate your ideas or you want some free information. This isn’t a tit-for-tat but I don’t feel like you’ve invested in me or my causes the way you’re asking me to support you. If you want to meet my hourly consulting rate is $250+that ‘free’ lunch. I looked you up on LinkedIn you can afford my rate and if you can’t then go do your own racial equity work. I only do pro-bono work for partners who are authentically from communities of color; being a poc sista ain’t gonna cut it either. Go do some work on getting woke and check your privilege then we’ll talk.
And finally if you want to meet with me, you do the harder work of checking your calendar to suggest dates. Don’t you know scheduling protocol? The first to extend an invite also sends dates and times – get with it.
P.S. Say please if you want me to do something, your email didn’t say please. A please and humility goes a long way.
If you think we’re writing about you, simmer down– we’re not lots of people are still stuck in writing these emails. But if you think it is you maybe you should ask yourself if you’re guilt of practicing fakequity. It is ok to feel the discomfort and work to change. Heidi got an email from someone telling her she asked people to feel things too many times in one hour. I would have said “Feel? Do you feel my blood pressure rising?” or “Ok, I’ll turn off my feelings if you turn off your covert racism.” Heidi is much calmer and social work smart, she said we need to feel the discomfort so we’re motivated to change.
Posted by Erin Okuno