I’m not always good about speaking up in the moment. I’ll watch or see or experience things and consider saying something, but I hesitate. And then I replay the scene over and over wishing I had opened my mouth.
This happened to me yesterday. I was in class. We had a guest lecturer but my professor was still there. The professor (a White male, this is relevant later) was invited to begin as we were all settled in. Mind you, there are seven of us in class, 3 females, 4 males, 1 Black student, 1 international student, 5 PhD students, 1 undergraduate student, 1 master’s student, 5 psychology majors, 2 non-psych majors.
So, before this guest begins his lecture, he asks to go around and do introductions. So the first male student to his right introduces himself (name, major, senior year). The next male (the international student) is a PhD psychology student who the professor knows so he decided he didn’t need to say anything because they know each other. Cool. Skip. Next, male student (the master’s student in a non-psych major) introduces himself. The next two students in the circle are the other two females, PhD, psych students. He knows them (they don’t do introductions by the way). Then me, then another psych student (that’s the circle. So after the master’s student the professor just nods and says ok cool thanks. Or something like that. Checks in with my professor that the powerpoint is ready to go and then begins his lecture.
(Deep breath). I froze. He didn’t make eye contact with me. If he had I would have spoken up. I was waiting for him to prompt me to introduce myself but he didn’t. The whole time in those seconds, minute before he began his lecture I thought I should speak up and say “oh hi by the way we haven’t met” or something nice and passive. I said nothing. I just got internally frustrated and upset and confused and then mad at myself and just replayed the whole thing over and over.
WHY DIDN’T I SAY ANYTHING?! I don’t know. Maybe it’s that whole “speak with spoken to” thing I was raised under. I felt like I needed permission. But then I get mad. Why do I feel like I need permission? I have good thoughts. I’m a person. I have value!
WHY DIDN’T HE ACKNOWLEDGE ME? Did he think he’d already met me? Read: I must look like some other light-skinned Black girl in the psych department that he had in another class (side eye). OR Was he not interested in knowing who I was? He made sure to acknowledge the other men in the room. But my gender identity wasn’t as annoyed as my other identities. I’m a freaking PhD student too! These guys were the educational minorities of the room. But they were acknowledged. I’m important too! Did he assume I was another non-PhD student? Why did he assume that?!
(Deep sigh) Needless to say, I was in my feelings the entire class. Plus, another student was facilitating a discussion (course requirement) and I was triggered by her choice of words. Ex. “women and other minorities”, “Obamacare”, variations on these themes. I wrote them down in my notebook since I wasn’t able to speak on that during the discussion. But I did rant a little bit on a related note in the discussion as I illuminated my opinion that the current societal shortcomings of our country are a direct result of choices made during our founding 200+ years ago.
So, Stacey, what’s the point of all this? My point is I’m still finding my voice. I’ve been silenced in different ways for different reasons so many times and I still struggle with myself. I’m screaming in my head and nothing comes out. Or I say far too much and wish I could stuff those words back inside my head. I’m still looking for that balance. I’m still looking for those safe spaces where I can explore and test those boundaries. There’s a line. And a context. And relationships that allow for flexibility and trial and error. I just can’t forget that I have a voice and it is valuable.
This post is dedicated to WordPress for providing me an outlet to share my voice, in a safe space, where I can test my personal boundaries. Thanks to those of you that read, comment, and like my posts. You’re the relationships that help measure what’s working and what’s not.