Waiting While Black?

Foundation president Dori Maynard was hustled out of a Washington, D.C., hotel lobby while waiting for a friend. In a Q&A with The Root, she says she's still seeking an explanation.

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DM: I do want an explanation, and not only do I want an explanation, but I want to see the original incident report (written up by the general manager). I don’t think that he should be in the position to do that to somebody else. I have no idea what happened, and I really would like to know what he thought he saw.

I keep replaying this in my head. The reason I’m blindsided, you know, we all walk into situations where we know we are being watched. That’s just a fact of life. Not a good fact of life, but a fact of life. But there are times when you are on guard. But this is in a hotel lobby, and hotel lobbies are for meeting people. This is incomprehensible to me.

TR: What did you, and what should others, take from this moment? 

DM: I have become incredibly concerned about the mood of the country. I have a 30-year-old brother who I’m just always on about being safe. I think we have entered a period where the acrimony and the tension is so palpable that you don’t know what’s going to happen next. I was surprised to be proved so right.

TR: It’s quite ironic that this happened the same day as the Rally to Restore Sanity.

DM: Exactly. The guy I was talking to at the hotel was getting ready to go on the rally, and that’s why he was proudly wearing his “eracism” shirt. At the time I looked at his shirt, I thought that this was showing me that maybe things are not as critical as I thought they were, and that there are people standing up against racism.

TR: But how insane did it become for you just after chatting with this hotel guest?

DM: It was insane, and it’s deeply troubling. The fact that nobody has gotten back to me is also deeply troubling. The only way I can interpret that [is that the hotel is saying], “We think it’s OK,” and it’s not OK. I talked to you earlier about it’s in keeping of what we do, but also as I said, I have been increasingly concerned about the conversation within this country.

We keep saying that Washington has to have a more civil tone. I think each of us needs to have a more civil tone as well. We are all responsible. I was willing to do my share to sit down and talk with this man to find out [why he escorted me outside] and to make sure that steps were taken that nobody else would be treated this way, and what I have gotten is absolute dead silence. Nothing — and that is unacceptable.

TR: What does this say about where we are today in this so-called post-racial society?

DM: First of all, I think in two years we went from ‘post-racial’ to racially polarized. There’s ample evidence that we are not post-racial. This is an opportunity for us to try to have frank and honest conversations about race, but I have not seen anybody who’s trying to lead those conversations. And when you try to have the conversation, like Eric Holder, who stood up — you saw what happened to him.

Quite frankly, I saw his point. If you don’t agree with him, or if we don’t agree with each other, rather than deriding each other, it’s really time to try to figure out why we all think the way we think. And just telling somebody that they are wrong all of the time is not going to actually change their mind or their opinion. We need to engage in honest dialogue, and we are not doing that on any front. And I think that has a potential to lead us further into a very bad place.

We really need to take a deep breath and just re-examine how we are treating each other.

Monée Fields-White is a Chicago-based writer who covers a wide array of topics, including business and economic news.

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