Sunday, November 07, 2010


An honest encounter.

By the sustained applause, I think the day went well. Several people lined up to shake my hand and thank me for the workshop. Given that this was a Friday and people must have wanted to go home, I was touched that they'd give up a few minutes just to say something nice. I was tired and after shaking the last hand, I was putting things away.

A man hopped up onto the stage and chatted with me for a few seconds. He said that he'd enjoyed my workshop, that he'd taken courses in disability studies, and that he wished I had come to lecture in his classes because I'd opened his eyes to some issues.

I knew there was more behind the chat. He pulled the chair beside me out and sat down for a moment.


When he came in he saw me and dismissed the idea from his mind that I could be the presenter. He was then startled by the fact that indeed I was the person doing the workshop and that I had done so competently. He realized that he had stereotyped me and he realized that in doing so he has made assumption and error.

I would never have known that I had been subject to an act of prejudice. I would never have known that his mind had categorized me differently, and less, than I was. I would never have known that I was owed an apology. But I did know, because he came and courageously admitted to what he had done. He acknowledged that he needed to work on how he saw people, what he expected from them and why he so quickly categorizes people.

Many people are victims of prejudice ... and yet go about their day not knowing that someone has tossed racial slurs silently, that someone has homophobic or sexist comments whispering along neural pathways, that someone has devalued and denigrated others because of weight, of looks, of mobility ... It may be good that we do not know. It may be good that, at least, we are spared the pain of experiencing every barbed thought that occurs to others.

But, here, I was glad to know. Glad that he was moved to come and mention that he had slipped up. I don't think he wanted my forgiveness, even though he kind of asked for it, I think he was creating for himself a moment that he will remember. A moment to remind him to be careful of how he sees others. A moment from which he can grow as a person and as a professional.

Give me people who can openly admit error, who can seek out and confess to wrongdoing for which they'd never be caught, who are willing to examine themselves into a state of growth.

I'd like to meet this man in ten years.

I'm guessing he's going to be a very, very, very cool guy.


Kristin said...

I think you are right. I think that man will be a very cool person because I don't think he will ever forget this moment.

theknapper said...

I believe this was a big aha moment for him and it will guide him in the future. He may have wanted forgiveness but I also think he needed to say it outloud so it marked a change in how he will be in the world.I also appreciate your grace to witness and not judge his earlier perceptions.

theknapper said...
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thebeachbead said...

I believe these kinds of moments happen more than we think. The moments when 2 people connect over making things right. Our souls keep us company the most, and that nagging thing that bugs us in the middle of the night, or even as immediate as walking away, that the THING that needs to be made right. Thanks for sharing. I write about saying something nice. That's how I found you. Funny...the ways we connect. And how we can be better for it. Thanks Dave.

Brenda said...

I think this is another one of those 'ripple moments', at least for me. The couple of times that someone has begun a conversation with "I owe you an apology...", and then confessed in much the same way that this young man did, have not only made me grateful that there are still folks with good old fashioned integrity in this world, but have also made me determined to be more honest, less judgmental, when dealing with others. It's tough, sometimes, to control your inner dialogue. But the thought that I may be wrong, and may end up owing that person an apology, tends to soften my thoughts and assumptions and try a little harder to get at the truth, leaving old prejudices in the dust. I hadn't thought about this for a while...thanks for the reminder, Dave!