I recently had an encounter and I am not sure I handled the situation correctly. I am seeking advice from you, the reader, on how I could have responded more appropriately, because I’ve been disappointed in myself ever since.
Let me back up.
We have a group that donated items to one of our events last year, and I reached out to them hoping they would donate again. I didn’t get a response, so I visited them. Upon entering the store, one of the owners peppered me with several questions about where I was from and what my husband did and where I lived. I responded politely without much detail, as I was taken aback by it all. The group said they would donate and I should come back to pick up things.
I returned a few days later and was again asked several questions. I actually felt the questions were intrusive and said, “you guys sure ask a lot of questions.” The reply was “we like to know who we’re doing business with.” I received part of the donation, and was told to return a third time for some more.
When I came back again (by the way, this level of chasing down donations is really not unusual — it takes a lot of time!), the first man was there. Here’s a transcript to the best of my recollection:
Him: “Putnam City has become (long pause) unbalanced racially.”
Me: “Actually, it’s not. We’re about evenly divided between three ethnic groups.”
Him: “That’s my opinion.”
Me: “I should probably leave before this gets uncomfortable for me.”
Him: “No, you’re going to listen.”
I said thank you for the donation to the other man, and took my leave.
Now, it is obvious to me this man is concerned that our district is no longer the white flight district it was in the 1970s. I know that is a good thing for all our children, but clearly he did not think so.
A few days later the “unbalanced” man called my office saying, “do you know who I am?” to which I replied “no sir”.
“I’m the guy you walked out on at X.”
“How may I help you sir?”
Nothing really of consequence was said, but his tone was unsettling.
So, needless to say, I will not be asking them for a donation again. We do not need to do business with people who seemingly don’t appreciate our district, not to mention people who have the arrogance to tell someone who works daily with our district what’s wrong with us. It felt like they were insulting a family member whom they’ve not seen in thirty years.
What I’d like to do is go back and explain how disappointing and disrespectful their behavior was. I’d like to send my husband up there too, just to stand behind me if they got too lippy. But I know that isn’t the right answer.
I used to tell my students that the racists have to die out before we can move forward on the issue, but this situation and others in the past few years have caused me to think I was wrong. I just wish I could figure out how to make the situation better for our students today.