February 24, San Mateo, CA: Its so easy to hurt someone. I've been thinking about this for a couple days, and today at work, the tables turned a bit. During a company meeting, in an effort to get a laugh, someone commented on our company BBQ "costume" of t-shirts and bandannas by saying: "we're way to close to East Palo Alto to wear bandanas." The crowd laughed (including key members of the management team). Heartily. I didn't. I was extremely uncomfortable. East Palo Alto is a Bay Area community of relative poverty, relatively high crime, and a majority minority population http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Palo_Alto). My workplace is not. Immediately, I remembered a time when, two months into a new job, a similar situation had arisen when my coworkers literally laughed at the idea of recognizing the MLK holiday when given the option. It was horrible.
I feel like I have two choices in a situation like that: say something or stay quiet. Even though I hate experiencing what happened today, I'm so glad I knew right away that I needed to say something. Staying quiet, for me, means being incredibly uncomfortable, frustrated, and feeling completely unsupported...even though an environment of support could very well exist. Carrying that burden alone is so emotionally taxing. I'm not willing to do it in the workplace. So I said something to the coworker who made the comment. I thought it was insensitive and inappropriate. I really don't need an apology. Attitude change is never my goal in a situation like that. For me its about behavior change. But the biggest consideration for me is feeling like I work somewhere where I can raise my concern in a civil way.
I believe we all have the capacity to be insensitive. I think its just like selfishness, jealousy, or evil. Circumstances can make it easier to act in one of those ways, and sometimes we choose them. So I guess that paying closer attention could never be bad advice. Today I was hurt. Last week I hurt someone else. I'm glad they came to me, and I know that to manage my ability to enjoy work and be productive, I have to feel like I can go to someone, too.
As for whatever it is that encourages me to speak up for myself, I have my mother to thank.
I also believe today is the closest I've come to photography as therapy.