I recently did an interview with Carmen VanKerckhove of New Demographic as she launches her newest program designed for diversity professionals. One of the questions she asked me was "what is the most challenging aspect of your job?" I'm sure I answered something about how people think they know it all already and such. And, at that moment, it was the truth. But, today, Good Lord, today. Today is one of those days in the field of diversity work when I just want to do anything other than diversity work. Today, I've felt like a car stuck in a snowbank -- which, living in the Northeast means it isn't that much of a stretch! I spend 50+ hours a week professionally trying to get people to engage in conversations -- not difficult ones, mind you -- about race, diversity, privilege, etc. I sometimes am up at 5:00am answering emails, writing reports, and scheduling programs. Sometime between 7am-8am, I actually have to do my motherly duties and get my kids up, fed, and off to school. The work day starts at 8:30 and ends sometime after 5pm, at which point I run and get the kids from school, make a marginally nutritious meal, put them to bed, and then open my laptop to finish up my day of emails, reports and scheduling. Yes, it all starts again at 5;00am.
At this pace, something always suffers. Sometimes it's getting back to people in a timely manner via email. Sometimes it's a Pop Tart for breakfast rather than a healthy cereal option. Sometimes it's a rushed bedtime routine in an attempt to get to my waiting laptop. But, is it worth it? Is it worth sacrificing sanity, family, ideals, and inspiration when the message isn't heard? Rather, when the message isn't seen as operational?
Why do people continue to do diversity work, especially in places that seem to not embrace the importance of it? How do others keep going? How do others stay inspired?
I had the pleasure of meeting Tim Wise this past week. And, as I sat in the front row and hung on his every word, I felt a renewed sense of inspiration. I felt like "yes! Someone knows what I'm talking about! Someone, today, gets it." Then, I talked to my husband, who was sitting in the back of the room. Before I even approached him, I saw the anger on his face.
"Seriously, Liza. Seriously? They had NO questions? The audience just heard Tim Wise speak and they had NO questions??"
My husband then proceeded to tell me all about his observations from the back of the room. He recounted observations of people who just looked around bored, who weren't engaged, and who would clearly rather have been anywhere but in that auditorium. My husband is a huge Tim fan -- in fact, he's the reason why I invited Tim to my place of work. He felt, as many do, that Tim was finally a dude that got it. Husband was angry."If Tim can't get them going, no one can, Liza. No one can. Tim's as great as it gets."
Unfortunately, this wasn't the first time a famous and well established speaker was faced with apathy. The last time this happened, though thankfully, that apathy led to more 1:1 time for me and that other speaker which ended up in a professional gig, so I took that one as a bonus for me!
Spinning my wheels. What's the point, some days? I know that I have to keep doing it to help shape a better world for myself, my children, my family, and others who share the same planet. But, how do we continue in the face of apathy?