As an award winner, cookbook author and James Beard committee member among many other thingsKathleen Purvis has seen a thing or two in the food world and we were so thankful to be able to sit down with her recently.
I wind up — and throw the disc right into your face. Understandably, you are indignant. Through a bloody nose, you use a few choice words to ask me what the hell I thought I was doing. That was never my intent!
I was simply trying to throw the Frisbee to my friend over there! I never intended to hit you. Sound infuriating enough to give me a well-deserved Frisbee upside the head? So why is this same thing happening all of the time when it comes to the intersection of our identities and oppressions or privileges?
Impact From Paula Deen to Alec Baldwin to your annoying, bigoted uncle or friend, we hear it over and over again: After all, in the end, what does the intent of our action really matter if our actions have the impact of furthering the marginalization or oppression of those around us?
In some ways, this is a simple lesson of relationships. I need to listen to how my language hurt my partner.
I need to apologize. This becomes a lesson of justice. We need to ask ourselves what might be or might have been the impact of our actions or words.
And we need to step back and listen when we are being told that the impact of our actions is out of step with our intents or our perceptions of self. Identity Privilege and Intent For people of identity privilegethis is where listening becomes vitally importantfor our privilege can often shield us from understanding the impact of our actions.
After all, as a person of privilege, I can never fully understand the ways in which oppressive acts or language impact those around me. What I surely can do is listen with every intent to understand, and I can work to change my behavior.
Because what we need to understand is that making the conversation about intent is inherently a privileged action. It ensures that you and your identity and intent stay at the center of any conversation and action while the impact of your action or words on those around you is marginalized.
Not everything is about you. So we need to listen, reflect, apologize, and work to do better in the future. What does that look like? Well, to start, we can actually apologize. They apologized earnestly and accepted the role they played in something really terrible.
At the interpersonal level, we can take a cue from Kickstarter. When we are told that the impact of our action, inaction, or words is hurtful and furthers oppression, we can start by apologizing without any caveats. From there, we can spend the time to reflect in hopes of gaining at least some understanding however marginal of the harmful impact.
And we can do our best to move forward by acting more accountably. Jamie is a diversity and inclusion consultant and sexual violence prevention educator based in Minneapolis, MN.
He lives with his loving partner and his funtastic dog. He blogs weekly at Change from Within. Read his articles here and book him for speaking engagements here.
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