My apologies for abandoning this column for a few weeks. My time and emotional energy have been consumed with being present to and advocating for my severely disabled son as he heals from a broken hip – in a severely short-staffed and poorly resourced rehab center. This experience has given me an insight regarding racism that I want to share. For his entire life I have had to advocate for Jonathan, since he is non-verbal and severely mentally challenged. That has meant asking hard questions of and making suggestions to his medical team. It has often resulted in better care, so I continue to do it. But this time, following much work on becoming anti-racist, I find that this advocacy is more difficult when I must speak up to people of color. Why? Because I do not want to come across as a demanding white woman who thinks she knows better than a medical professional and/ or is entitled to more services than they can provide. Hopefully, I am currently striking the balance between necessary advocacy and appearing entitled because of my race. My intention is to be genuinely respectful and complimentary when that is warranted, thus building the trust that will allow these professionals to hear what I am saying, in the spirit it is offered, when it is difficult. But of course this is how I should approach people of any race caring for Jonathan.
– Kate Seel (firstname.lastname@example.org)