I have been thinking about how I answer questions, and what I choose to obscure when I answer them.
“How come you already know so much about [process, product, protocol]?”
(I get this one a lot). My default response to this is, “because I’m nosy.” Which is a fact. But the truth is that for the entirety of my career I have been drawn to projects for which there is no roadmap or precedent, and the truth is that people like me are rarely given the grace of second chances, and the truth is that the pet to threat cycle gets shorter every time, so the window to try to do good work without being perceived as a problem is narrow.
“Why is this your problem?”
(And variants). Hand-waving about nosiness works here, too. As does the fact that I truly abhor a structural problem that is being addressed with individual solutions. But the truth, again, is that people like me are in danger.
People who have long benefitted from being the default, whose every experience is reinforced and validated by the status quo and who are never described as not being a good “culture fit” - folks who are used to having obstacles removed for them without even having to ask, perhaps before they’re even aware of their existence, for these folks discomfort feels like an emergency.
When will it be my turn has a different meaning when what you’re worrying about is not a promotion, but the likelihood that someone will push you in front of a New York City subway train or shoot up your neighbourhood grocery store or attempt to massacre everyone in your church or mosque or synagogue or gurdwara.
Because people are waking up, with deadening regularity, to another day of headlines about how their rights are being discussed as privileges they don’t deserve because are they really people anyway? To another day of conversations about how the violent supremacists who are very explicit about why they want them dead are somehow “misunderstood” or “marginalized”.
“Why is this your problem?”
Because you have refused to make it your problem, and because I am trying to stay alive, and because I get to operate in those spaces where people make decisions (or choose not to make decisions) that affect the odds of people like me dying.
If you get senior enough or visible enough in certain types of roles, or you have the kinds of class access that gets you into certain spaces, and you’re a certain kind of person (or more specifically you’re not a certain kind of person), eventually you come to realize how much of your time is spent managing people’s discomfort with the truth.
There are many of these spaces, and there are still relatively few of us in them. And we are very tired, because the possibility of intermittent discomfort gets to trump the reality of ongoing danger, over and over and over and over again.
And so we’ll keep dying, and you’ll keep going to dinner parties with the people who are creating and normalizing the conditions for some of us to be targeted for extermination.