Here is the third example:
At the same table, the fellows reported that, when this same member excused herself to the bathroom, another member said: “Make sure you go to the colored bathroom.”
This other member said she did make that joke and acknowledged it was in poor taste. For that, she apologized at the table and has apologized again. She said she made the joke in reference to a memory from high school when she and her friend discovered on a field trip to Jamestown, Va. that bathrooms were separated for “white” and “colored” people.
That struck me as the most inappropriate comment, even noting that the remark was thankfully directed at a white attendee to call back the theme of putting oneself in the position of the other, not a black attendee.
The fellows at this table also said that someone said, “It’s not like you have to please Massa.” No one has taken responsibility for this statement, but the idea that someone said this is deplorable.
Both women have since apologized for the exchange that happened at their table. One wrote: “For any of my actions that hurt someone, I sincerely and deeply apologize. No hurt was intended. I hope only that we can all grow and come together to lift JAWS higher.”
The fourth example concerns indigenous people:
Navajo Times reporter and Emerging Journalist Fellow Pauly Denetclaw told attendees at Sunday night’s dinner that she was called “Indian” several times — a term the Associated Press has not used in its Stylebook for decades. She also noted another CAMP attendee referred to the colonization of North America as “homesteading,” which our fellows described as a term that “erases the history of stolen Native lands and genocide.”
I personally want to thank the woman who has come forward on the listserv to apologize for using the term “homesteading.”
The fifth concerns socioeconomic status:
At Sunday morning’s membership meeting when I shared a snapshot of the 2018 budget, several members grabbed the microphones and began a spontaneous call for donations. While I love the fact that people want to give more to this organization, I want to acknowledge that it was off-putting to some people in the room.
As one observer noted: “To some, this was considered a good thing, but to others, it was an example of privilege being thrown in their face and reinforced the negative experiences they already were having at CAMP.”
Fara Warner, who has returned to the JAWS board, said she was among those pledging $100 toward our fundraising efforts, and she apologizes if her actions made anyone feel uncomfortable. “I can see that my actions, while not intentionally, were classist. I am more than happy for the membership to know that it was me and that I apologize for my actions.”
For the sixth example, we turn to the grievances of some white attendees:
It should also be noted that women of color were not the only ones who experienced offensive acts.
Another woman, who is white, and a self-described Gen-Xer, shared a situation in the hotel restaurant, where one longtime JAWs member cut in front of people standing in line: “I was treated rudely by [this person] during lunch,” this woman told me. “She didn’t even see me. Talked over me and got in front of me. She goes straight up to the waitress … and cuts in line. I understand that this happens, but there is so little self-awareness … Civility is lost on a certain subset of people at JAWS. The tone they use is disrespectful.”
The seventh example continues that theme:
I also want to note several of our white members, some who are older, have a disability, or do not fit into a binary category, felt disrespected and “invisible” at CAMP.
“It is deeply offensive when all white people are lumped together and treated as collectively responsible for the racist or race-blind blunders of some white individuals, or held accountable collectively for structural racism, without investigating what we may have done to challenge that,” one member said to me. “We cannot move forward together if we are attacked collectively or if our different ways of thinking and seeing are dismissed.”
The eighth example focuses on older white women:
Several other white members said they felt irrelevant and as if they had nothing to offer because of their age.
“As part of this year’s diversity initiative, cards were available throughout the weekend on a table in the foyer for people to write suggestions on what JAWS could do,” one attendee reported. “The cards were placed face up. One card referred negatively to seeing so many old white women at JAWS. Those cards helped fuel the remarks by some older white women Sunday evening during Marina’s presentation of our diversity report and planned roundtable discussions.”
In the ninth example, those accused of offending older white women were offended in turn:
In their statement to the board, the fellows acknowledged an “anonymous comment written on the diversity board (“I’ve never been to a conference with so many old white women”) set an uneasy starting point as some members’ defenses were up coming into the discussion.” But the fellows said none among them wrote the statement. “We were further misled in thinking that we were sharing candid thoughts in a safe space, only to have anonymous comments weaponized against us.”
Summing up all the examples of “troubling comments,” the letter opines, “On Sunday night, we witnessed how the best of intentions can harm. We witnessed how failing to openly and fully acknowledge privilege can harm.”