She asked in the interview, the only South Asian woman, amidst three white people, “How I develop my multicultural lens while working with people from various backgrounds.”
I froze. My white guilt-turned dissociative haze of a brain would not work for me on cue, on command. What was the right answer? I went to my index of all the ways I had clinically helped people from the non-dominant experience, the books I read, the conferences I attended. I rattled them off. At once I knew I was both inadequate and a fake. This is not the answer I wanted to hear myself saying nor could I guess it was the answer she wanted either.
What I really wanted to say:
I sit with not knowing shit. I am at times humbled by not knowing. The gauze of racial superiority and the fortress of privilege does not allow me to see all this. Privilege wants me to not see, but instead to glare, to strain my sight past the wrongs. My privilege wants to justify, deny, minimize. But when I admit I don’t know anything, the wrongs are right by my side and even inside of me. I sit with all the wrongs.. And this is where it hurts the most for us white folks. To sit and for an instant, feel it.
I sit in the shit of not knowing anything about the other person’s experience, even if I’ve read the books and have gone to the conferences and have done a lot of unlearning, relearning, ally work, multicultural competence trainings. I still don’t know anything really. This is where my most humble self emerges if only for a wee moment. All I know is I know I don’t know, even if my ego thinks it knows. It’s just a way of comforting me out of the guilt and the pain. And the sense of separation. Sometimes, admittedly we don't want to feel that bad. Who does? I don't like the feeling of discomfort, but quite frankly, I wouldn't want to feel any other way.
I also admittedly and importantly sit in self-love, because if I do not embrace my own cultural roots -- the bad and the ugly and the sweet and the sublime --I am not doing anybody any good. I need to be self-loving in order to be the best ally I can be. In order to model self-love for others and keep my heart open.
This clearly was my only answer.