I am tired, completely and utterly tired. No, actually I’m exhausted. This is something that a leader is not supposed to say; but it’s whatever. Let me explain. I am hosting a series of zoom meetings as part of my campaign for re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives. My district is a beautiful place with amazing people in northwestern CT and includes large urban cities, affluent suburbs and small rural and farming communities. There are 41 cities and towns and I plan to host a series of listening sessions with the residents of each community. In this temporary Covid-19 reality we had to get creative about engagement. We are well into our schedule and are having great success.
我们的第四次会议开始,大约10minutes in- I hear “Jahana Hayes is a N-word.” I pause- not sure how to react, but I catch a glimpse of all the faces of the people who have joined the meeting. They are mortified, shocked, embarrassed, hurt and I could tell they didn’t know what to do next. They are all waiting to see what I do. I smile and calmly wait for my communications team to handle the situation. My team mutes the participant and they are removed from the meeting. I continue to speak and this happens again, from another participant. Only this time it’s the N-word on a loop set to music. This participant is also muted and removed from the meeting. This is repeated by two more people saying, “shut up N-word”, clearly a coordinated effort. Six minutes of vile, disgusting, dare I say deplorable, hate- and I am on full display as I process, in real time, what is happening.
The call ends and I have exactly nine minutes before my next meeting begins. I tell myself chin up, put your game face on, don’t let this get you down, you have more work to do. The next meeting lasts about an hour and goes off without a hitch. To wrap up my evening, I call my staffer, who was moderating the event, to see if she is ok- I call the only other Black person on the zoom to check in on her and be sure she is ok- I call my Communications Director to instruct him to report the incident. I cannot even reflect on what just happened because I have to be sure my team is ok. I sign out of my computer, but not before I post a screenshot of a section of the zoom chat which read “SHUT UP N-word GO PICK YOUR COTTON,” repeated in all caps over and over- fully appreciating the fact that cries of “identity politics” are sure to commence.
许多人会质疑为什么我会发布如此原始和冒犯的东西？这是因为我在那一刻意识到我不行。我不正常发生这种情况。我不行，这不是我生命中第一次发生的，或者我必须解释这发生这种情况。我不行，我必须发布一个屏幕截图来证明它发生了。我不行，那些人仍然怀疑它发生了或者四十甚至四十岁的话语，有必要对这个事件进行“验证”事件。我不行，我将不得不为这发生这种情况的人微妙地解释 - 这里。我不行，很多人会尝试和捍卫这些词和行动，并不会看到这些评论不是关于政策或政治 - 他们是关于种族主义和仇恨和挑战我们的体面。我不好！我说了 - 我承认它，我不行。
Black women are expected to press on, to ignore this behavior; to not talk explicitly about it because it is uncomfortable, divisive or does not reflect the sentiments of most people. I have watched other women weather this storm and fend off these types of attacks and wonder if in their quiet places they have felt what I am feeling right now. We have become numb to this behavior, instinct kicks in and we just move on. So many well intentioned people say things like, ignore it, you’re better than that or don’t let it bother you. Even as I write, I am exhausted by the fact that I am carefully choosing my words, so as to capture the experience, but not offend the reader. We are left debating zoom security, yet not addressing the underlying issue- that pockets of racism and hate still exists right in our own front yard. The most painful part of it all is that no matter what you achieve in life, no matter how many degrees you earn or how good of a person you try to be- all some people will ever allow themselves to see is a N-word.
Has anyone ever considered the trauma of such an experience? Words matter and they cut deep, no matter how hard you try to suppress or ignore them-words hurt. In that moment I was reminded that I carry the weight of leading by example and knowing that everyone was watching my next step. As the first African American woman ever elected to Congress from CT, I know there is likely no blueprint for how to communicate my feelings on this topic to my constituents. I heard the words of Michelle Obama “when they go low we go high” play over and over in my head. I imagined if my Grandma were here she would shake her head and immediately start to pray as she recalled some of the most painful parts of her own history. I thought of the 17 year old who is met with the same racist, vitriol attacks and has to make the life defining decision of how they will respond. So NO- I am not ok.
这并不意味着我被打破，或者我会放弃。这并不意味着我不爱我的国家或认识到一个人不会为大多数人说话。这意味着，今晚我会练习一些自我照顾。我会读一本书，洗个澡，也许有一个好哭，明天我会稳定自己并回去工作。检查你的黑人朋友，我可以向你保证，当前的气候中有许多人不行。停止说这不会发生这种情况或将其视为轶事。有一个诚实的对话，了解我们都在体验。倾听，不要项目，不要做出判断，只要听。虽然了解我的痛苦可能是一些旅程，但拒绝承认这是一个寻求治愈我们国家的任何人的非起动者。我们唯一可以削减我们社区的种族主义癌症的方式是在我们看到它并提高我们的集体声音以摆脱它时致电。 In the words of Edmund Burke, “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good people to do nothing.” Let’s all commit to doing something and being ok together.
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