When I was in college, I was part of a social group that elected officers each year. From my freshman year, I aspired to be president of the organization and when the day came to sign up, of the fourteen or so different positions, my signature of course went under “president”.
During the meeting when the elections took place, the people who had signed up and those nominated “off the floor” left the meeting for the vote. The first vote had several candidates for president leave the room…and I lost. Then we voted for vice president. I hadn’t signed up, but was nominated. And lost. And I continued to be nominated. I continued to leave the room and I continued to return a loser. Finally, and painfully we reached the nominations for the very last position — a liaison position to the other organizations on campus and I was nominated again. And I walked out of the room, again, preparing to lose, again. In fact, I sat outside the meeting room and thought I no longer wanted to be part of the organization. I thought how little these people must have thought of me to not vote for me, over and over again. I wanted to get in my car, drive away and never come back.
And of course, I won that office. And in winning, I opened up my horizons to areas and people and experiences I never would have imagined. This was one of the best…and worst experiences of my college life.
By today’s standards, I could have cried “injustice”. I could have claimed that people didn’t vote for me because I was white. Because I was part Cherokee. Part Polish. Because I didn’t have the best grades. And who knows? Perhaps some of those are true.
But I can’t account for other people. I can only account for me. And now, in the latter half of my life, I’m learning that my goal is to hopefully get past those “identifiers” and get down to the business of life.
You see, I’m more than a white woman. I’m complex. I’m a Republican who agrees with some ideas of Democrats. I am a woman who still sees the constraints of a man’s world. I am of Cherokee blood and woe the mistreatment of my own ancestors. But none of those define me.
I define me. If I had focused on the reasons why I didn’t get voted for some offices, I would have missed the joys that actually were ahead of me. My path changed and it has been a glorious path.
I am dismayed at our culture of blaming others. Of looking at the injustices of history and falling back on that as an excuse. I am saddened that we still use politics/gender/color/religion to separate us and not use those traits as opportunities to correct the errors of our collective pasts.
So forgive me if I don’t label you. Because I don’t believe respect is immediately given because you are heterosexual…or gay…or black…or white…or Democrat…or Republican…or Catholic…or atheist…or male…. I will give you respect because YOU have deserved it. Because you are my friend. Because we’ve fought to make things better together. Because we’ve had to leave the room again and again and again and again only to return to failure in order to find our own path to success, joy, self-fulfillment.
I can’t account for the stupidity of others and I do my best to not succumb to the stereotypes in my own thinking. So please know that I’m not merely a white woman. I’m the person who will cheer for you because you are something special. I desperately want to celebrate our similarities, not highlight our differences. Because together, we truly have the ability to make change.