I was having a moment. A rough moment. I couldn’t think. My brain was freaking out. I was surprised at the emotion ringing through me. Honestly I really didn’t get much work done after that.
But let me back up.
I had just finished recording a video. Specifically a video on Why Diversity and Inclusion is so important to me. It was for an effort at work to share stories on the impact of Diversity and Inclusion in people’s lives.
To those that have read this blog before you have heard this before, so apologies for any repetition. The full story is here but the long and the short of it is that I was told I would never become an actuary because of my religion. Crazy sounding I know but true.
I have told a few people over the years. But largely only people I trusted. People that understood. I had recently even referred to it in a small group setting - unnerving but I had gotten through it.
So I thought I would be OK. Done it before. And it had happened a long time ago. I would be fine.
All the emotions ran back like it happened yesterday.
After I sent the video in I immediately regretted it and called a friend. I asked if it was OK. If it was dumb. They said it was good. They tried to calm me down. Then they asked why I was so upset about it.
I honestly didn’t know. Largely I was embarrassed. Ashamed.
They assured me no that was not the case.
I talked to my brother later. I walked him through it. That I had gone into a fair amount of detail. I talked about how I was feeling. That even days later I was still feeling embarrassed and ashamed. As usual he nailed the issue: of course I was upset, I was reliving a traumatic incident…… duh!
Being told you could never do something not due to merit but because of who you are is traumatic. The doors don’t close. They disappear. You know you will never be given a fair shake and nothing you do will be good enough. And there is nothing you can do about it. No extra schooling. No coaching. No nothing. Because you will always be the educated minority in their eyes. Never allowed to be an equal or on an equal footing.
Maybe that’s just my experience. Maybe I am the only one that’s felt that. But that is where my head went.
And 30 years later it did it again.
That’s the thing. These incidents don’t leave you they are scars that stay with you.
I am lucky. As a white, cisgendered male I could hide. I did not have to deal with these things repeatedly.
But others are not so lucky. Demographically diverse folks have these incidents happen repeatedly. And these incidents are traumatic. And traumas stay with you.
The mental health aspect of Diversity and Inclusion is so important. So very real. So very hard.
As an ally I have many times been in a conversation and have someone recount an incident. I don’t mention my experience. I don’t want have a comparison going. Saying I or someone else “had it worse” does not work. I just listen. Their feelings are valid and theirs and they should not be marginalized.
I long ago learned to just stay silent and listen. Not to try and rationalize it. Not try to explain why someone may have said something. Trust me … don’t… do… that! You are not helping. Just listen.
I remember these are traumas, have deep emotion and are part of their story. They are valid and deserve respect.
As always I hope this helps. I look forward to continuing the conversation. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments.
All the best,
Dave Terné (He/Him)