Today, I had a very odd experience with an email newsletter subscriber. I wasn’t planning to write a blog post about it because I didn’t want to upset anyone and just in case it got back to this now-un-subscriber. But then I thought–this is exactly what I want to write about and explore–how it feels to be a people pleaser finally trying to stand up for what I believe and find my voice. I have been handed another life example today, so I should write about it.
I will preface this story with saying that I did calm down the language and things that the person said in the email, when I copied it below, because it is offensive. It is racist, and it is clear that this person is not trying to understand another culture or what it’s like to live anywhere else or be anything other than a white American Christian. (which by the way is also just fine–whatever you identify with is just fine, as long as you are trying to understand other people and loving them for who they are.)
So…here’s the story…
I am participating in a fantastic free online writing conference for fiction writers called Wonder Quest, put together and run by Maram Taibah, who is a writer and filmmaker from Saudi Arabia. My email newsletter was inviting people on my list to sign up for this 10-day event by going here (in case you want to sign up–it’s free!) and registering your email address and your first name. Then the 10 webinars, by various women writers and creative coaches, will be emailed straight to your inbox for you to watch and work through until May 7. So when I opened this angry email from one of my subscribers, I was in shock because I was not sure how this free event could offend anyone. Here’s the end of the message from my subscriber:
And why an Arab woman? Why are these Arabs suddenly showing up everywhere? Is it because you want to be politically correct? I don’t give a **** about political correctness and you can remove me from the list any time you want. What can an Arab possibly have to teach?
At first, I thought about just deleting the email because I knew I wouldn’t be able to change this person’s mind EVER, and I didn’t want to step on this person’s toes. But what was in the email offended me. It made me angry. It was unbelievable that this is how people I actually know feel. And so even though I knew that I wouldn’t change anything this person thought, I wrote back. I tried to take advice from a recent Jen Hatmaker podcast and Brene Brown’s book, Braving the Wilderness, about speaking our truths without attacking a person, and so I said:
I was asked to do Wonder Quest and believe in the goal of offering a free online writing conference to writers who might not be able to afford to go to one. I actually don’t look at the color of people’s skin or their gender–the thoughts you are having never crossed my mind. And why an Arab? Because an Arab woman decided to get this together for writers around the world–an Irish woman didn’t. A Native American woman didn’t. An American woman didn’t. An Arab woman did. I’m sorry that you feel the way that you do about my email and the things that are important to me and that I am promoting, so I am happy to unsubscribe you from my email list, and I wish you the best of luck with your writing and your books.
(To be honest, I’m wondering if I even used the term Arab properly or respectfully–I hope I did. If I didn’t, hopefully someone will tell me.) Anyway, this answer just enraged the person even more, and the next email, which went downhill very fast and I’m not sharing with you here because of its offensiveness, started with:
Don’t you give me that mumbo jumbo about race or color of skin.
To which I wrote back: “Like I said, good luck with your writing.”
Because I was trying to show by example how even though the things this person is saying are totally offending me, I am not wishing ill will. This person wanted an argument because I received another email, to which I have now blocked the sender. And then I decided to write this post.
It saddens me that in 2019, we still have people who are completely judging each other on race, religion, and culture. It’s not like I didn’t know that this was true. It’s not like all of a sudden today, I was faced with this cruel, harsh world. I live in St. Louis. I am 20 miles from Ferguson. I am on social media and see the racial slurs and insults slung at every one–no matter race, religion, or gender.
But why I chose to write about it here today is because I think a year ago, I would have handled this situation differently. I would have tried to reason with this person and explained how I didn’t mean to offend and what can I do to get this writer to stay on my list? But today, I decided I’m saying my peace in a kind way and moving on.
What can we do to combat people like this? Well in this very specific case, you can support the lovely and generous Maram Taibah by going to the Wonder Quest event (if you are a writer or interested in writing) and signing up for free! You can also visit her website. You can tell this story to other people and see their reaction or what they might have said if faced with this situation. You can start conversations in your home about word choice and language and getting to know individuals.
I’ll tell you one thing. I didn’t people please today–and I don’t feel one bit guilty.