DATELINE Jan. 7, 2021 — I got an early morning call from a client asking me to review a message he had drafted overnight in response to the insurrection at the Capitol. Less than 24 hours had passed, and he wanted to alert his 5000-person team that he understood how wrong it was. He also indicted the Capitol police explicitly, saying the riot never would have happened had the mob been Black. Indeed, he wrote, they would have been shot on sight.
I commended him for his courage in calling out the insurrectionists to his team, and recommended he delete the part about the Capitol police, suggesting that while that might very well be true, we didn’t have the facts yet, and he might alienate some of his team who have friends and family in law enforcement.
He agreed with me and took that part out before sending what was still a powerful and unusual business message.
The next day, I was scolded by a 20-something colleague who advised me that I had “robbed [my client] of his chance to be a thought leader and [I would] never understand diversity because it’s generational and cultural.”
We always remember the one bad review out of a thousand good ones, don’t we?
Her words have rung in my heart since the day she struck me with them. In effect, she called me an irrelevant, obsolete, old white lady. And with her indictment of me, she robbed us of the chance to navigate this wildly complicated cultural time we share — together.
She was right about one thing: I guess I do look like somebody’s stereotype of a suburban grandmother…until you catch a glimpse of the purple stripe behind my ear.
…until you learn that I’ve been a progressive activist for 40 years, starting in NYC on the frontlines of the AIDS crisis.
…until you know that I’ve camped outside prisons to protest the death penalty.
…until you read the equal rights legislation and op-eds I’ve written on behalf of elected officials.
…until you find out that I have received death threats for my work to improve public housing.
…until you understand the sacrificial dance a gay person, never mind a woman, had to do to survive on the margins and in the shadows of Corporate (and every other) America until very, very, very recently.
…until you’ve read my story.
You know what they say about assumptions.
There may be many things I don’t get that ARE cultural and generational — music and pants, mostly. But the human rights umbrella? My friends and I have carried that one for decades. Our work yesterday (and our political forebears’ the day before that) is why we don’t have to start from scratch today.
Okay, Boomers. Let’s close this chapter on a high! ☮️