After participating in the recent diversity panel in Denver, I received feedback that comments I made were offensive to people of color. While I addressed the feedback personally on the phone with those who approached me and those who I knew in the audience, I did not address it publicly. I internalized the feedback and the blog I recently wrote, Moving Mountains, was a reflection of that on my own life and my own path forward. While it was only meant to be a personal reflection blog, I realize now that it is important to address the issues directly and apologize to those who felt impacted by the things I said. I’ve spoken with a lot of women in the space recently about intent vs. impact. And while intentions are not malicious, impact can be significant given the lens of each individual. So, I’d like to address each piece of feedback in its entirety…
I am not an expert in diversity and inclusion
It is evident I am not an expert in diversity and inclusion. I have always set out to hold space for conversations and have avoided assuming the role of expert. When The Riveter approached me, I accepted the invitation because it seemed like a cohesive event with other women and organizations I respected and the women who recommended me were also on the panel. I now realize I was not fit for the role and it would have been better and more impactful had I let someone else have a seat on the stage. It didn’t feel like my place when I was up there and it doesn’t feel like my place now. I agree with all who say I am not an expert in diversity and inclusion.
The story of how I met my husband
At the panel, I shared the story about how I met my husband in Maui and I scooped him up and took him home as my “souvenir.” While this is a silly story we share with our friends and family about how we met, I realize that this can be offensive through the lens of racial tensions and can come off completely insensitive. I am aware that I need to be more conscious about the liberty of word choice and sensitivities around those comments, especially when the issues we are conversing about are intense and triggering. Again, intent vs. impact – my words poured alcohol on many open wounds in the room and for that I am deeply apologetic.
My son as “biracial”
It is my understanding that people were offended that I call my son biracial rather than black. I am curious to continue this conversation as it feels like an appropriate term, while honoring both his father’s and my lineages. I am aware that he will be perceived as a black person in society and how I refer to him in our family’s context feels very personal. So I am open to hearing more about this topic.
Establishing my impact in diversity in the outdoors
As I wrote in my personal apology letter as well as in the blog, I felt reserved on the panel. It’s a moment when you think “I really don’t belong up here right now” and yet, there you are. I was told I could have used my platform to explain what I am doing in the space of diversifying the outdoors. And to be honest, I am just in the infancy stages of knowing what that is. So I do apologize to all of the local organizations who have their concepts and direction together and who would have been way more impactful than I was on that stage. Again, would have been best to step aside and let someone else step up.
“Anger, hate and resentment” comment
In my blog I stated,
“The way I see it, the only way forward is to look inside. We cannot affect collective change if we do not do our personal work to create our own individual change. People that are angry and hateful and resentful of others are, at their core, angry, and hateful and resentful of themselves. And this darkness always comes from a wounded place within that is laden with emotional trauma and ends up obscuring a clear, loving path forward. When this is the infrastructure of the mind, no one can be loving or compassionate. And it is indeed, love and compassion that will dissolve barriers and create connections.”
When I wrote this, it was directed specifically at racist people, not at people of color and not at those who had given me feedback. I titled the section “The Way Forward” because I was reflecting on one of the questions at the panel and how we can move humanity (and racism) forward from a mindset perspective, which is based on the behavioral science of acceptance and commitment therapy. Truthfully, I didn’t feel defensive or angry toward anyone who gave me feedback after the event and each person that approached me knows that I reached out to them personally with an apology and curiosity for further insight.
To anyone who felt impacted by my words at the panel, I am sorry. I am sorry that my choice to join the panel and the things I shared that night affected you negatively and further perpetuated the very issues you deal with every day. I apologize that I misspoke and misrepresented where validation was needed. And I apologize that with the intention of contributing to deeper understanding and healing, I may have widened the gap rather than created a bridge. These are things I cannot reverse but can only learn from, grow and move forward. I take it all to heart.