How to Be White (at #PoCC12) – Part 6

christhinnesUncategorized5 Comments


NB MARCH 2013: The following post has been amended to limit the identification of individuals, in an exchange that was intended to examine principles rather than personalities.


 

Dear Reader:

The Executive Director of a regional association of independent schools provided the following response by email to yesterday’s post (“Those Boots Weren’t Made for Talking”) — in which I referred to comments she made in a #PoCC12 general session. She asked me to post them so that others attendes can see them, and ‘hear’ them, as well.

Dear Chris,

I tried to post the comment below to your blog post and was unsuccessful. Concerned that you may have settings that may not allow comments, I am sending it directly to you and would appreciate your helping me to do whatever I can to make amends for the miscommunication I made at the opening ceremonies by posting this comment or directing me how to do so properly.

Comment:

Yesterday morning, when I went to the podium as the last person to welcome the attendees of this year’s PoCC to Houston, I did so with a heart full of gratitude and expectation for this important gathering of sharing and learning. My every intention was to convey honor and respect to everyone. I am so very regretful and apologetic that I offended, angered, and/or hurt anyone present.

My impromptu, unscripted connection of my colorful boots to Pat’s having worn his most colorful shirt in celebration of PoCC, ended by saying “we both wanted to be people of color today” meant to say in a lighthearted way that we were trying to be “with you” today. That was not how it came across and I so wish that I could change that. I hope that my sincerest apology will be accepted and my failure to communicate well forgiven.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings, Chris. I will learn from this.

R
End of blog comment

On a personal note, a serious family health matter has not allowed me to stay for the remainder of the Conference. I am full of regret about this, too, as I would have been seeking you and others out to apologize and to have a conversation in person. Like you, I get up every morning of the week to do the good work of education. I revere the goals and aims of PoCC and my friends and colleagues of color. I don’t pretend to know your journey. But I am respectful and always open to knowing more. Otherwise, I would not have been in Houston. I hope to meet you sometime and that we can get to know each other beyond the perceptions of our words of the past day.

Sincerely,

R
Executive Director

 

This prompt and direct apology to PoCC attendees, which I appreciate at a number of levels, suggests the addition of two invitations in the spirit of the “Code of Conduct for White Folks” that has been developing iteratively over this series of posts.

8. When You Blow It, Own It

Determine whether you ‘blew it’ not on the basis of the intentions of your actions or your words, but on their impact. Other folks get to decide their impact, and you get decide how to respond.

9. Exercise Your Interruption Skills with White People

When you witness another white person struggling on this path, I invite you to consider it is your obligation to call attention to it. Do not defer your response to a person of color, unless you are asked to do so. If you’re not sure whether you should speak up or not, ask. If a person of color asks you to speak up, do it.

You, Dear Reader, can make your own decision whether my communication, or hers, were effective examples or not.

Until next time,

Chris

 


You can follow Chris Thinnes on Twitter at @ChrisThinnes

  • Pingback: Morning Sting (by Nakeiha Primus) | CurtisUES.info()

  • Pingback: How to Be White (after #PoCC12) – Part 8 | CurtisUES.info()

  • Howard McCoy

    What about the comments from Pat Bassett?

    • ChrisThinnes

      A vexing question to many, I know. I know many people saw a clear connection between the two, and I decided to speak about the comments I felt, and others felt, were explicitly offensive and disruptive. I did not personally ‘read’ Pat Bassett’s comments as some others did, but I don’t pretend to be ‘right’ or to be ‘clear.’ Perhaps you would like to share your point of view…? Thanks for reaching out about an important question.

  • ChrisThinnes

    On 12/10/12, Pat Bassett and Rhonda Durham issued statements on the NAIS site at http://ow.ly/gc5En. They are copied in full below:

    Letter from Pat Bassett

    Dear PoCC and SDLC attendees,

    I’m writing to you today as a follow up to my opening general session remarks about my “wearing my colorful shirt to honor the People of Color Conference.”

    First and foremost, I want to apologize for the impromptu remark. In my enthusiasm for opening the conference, I referred to the wearing my colorful shirt as a way of honoring the gathering and the work, and that comment struck many as inappropriate, the last thing I intended. Lesson learned on my journey to become a better ally of people of color: be aware that such comparisons bear no resemblance to the ways people experience the world based on their race or other cultural identifiers, and such comments can hurt. I truly regret that my comment failed to convey my belief that working with a group of people with diverse backgrounds and experiences makes our community — and the world — a stronger, more vibrant, better place and that the comment may have unintentionally undermined the data I presented that proved that very point. This is not the first time I have made a gaffe, and it’s safe to assume I’ll make others, but not the same one. Rest assured, I will endeavor to continue to support work of diversity and inclusivity in any way that I can and will re-double my efforts on the journey to be a more effective ally.

    Witnessing first-hand — at schools and at NAIS — how important it is to have diverse communities that are welcoming and safe for all, I know that PoCC and SDLC in particular serve as vitally important safe spaces that help support adult and student leaders of color and their allies within our schools.

    I also want to thank everyone attending the conference for your participation and for your ongoing commitment to advancing the work of equity and justice in our schools. What you do, and what NAIS is committed to sustaining, is critical to the growth and success of our schools.

    Sincerely,

    Patrick F. Bassett
    National Association of Independent Schools

    Letter from Rhonda Durham
    At the opening ceremonies of PoCC, I went to the podium as the last person to welcome this year’s attendees to Houston. I did so with a heart full of gratitude and expectation for this important gathering of sharing and learning. My every intention was to convey honor and respect to everyone. I also wanted to share my support for people of color and for the work of promoting equity and justice in independent schools.

    At the end of my remarks, I made an unscripted reference to my colorful boots, connecting them to Pat’s having worn his most colorful shirt in celebration of PoCC. I ended by saying “we both wanted to be people of color today.” I meant to say, in a lighthearted way, that we were trying to be “with you” today in a sign of solidarity. To say that I am very sorry for my most unfortunate, naïve reference to wanting to be “people of color” by wearing colorful clothing is an understatement. I am so very regretful and apologetic that I offended, angered, and/or hurt anyone present. I will learn from this.

    Sincerely,

    Rhonda Durham
    Independent Schools Association of the Southwest

    Letter from Gene Batiste
    In this, the 25th year of the People of Color Conference and the 19th year of the Student Diversity Leadership Conference, I am reminded not only of the incredible journey independent schools have made to become more diverse, inclusive communities, but of the many thousands of individual journeys that have taken place. PoCC and SDLC provide a remarkable space to share our experiences as people of color in independent schools and to grow as leaders. The work that we do here — and take back to our schools – is not always easy, but it’s critical to the success of independent schools. I hope you will join us again next year.

    Warmly,

    Gene
    Harold Eugene Batiste, III
    National Association of Independent Schools