During my short stint as a columnist, I’ve gotten some interesting responses to what I’ve written. I’ve had people go to great lengths to tell me how stupid I am. I had one reader say that he would rather stick a fish in a rather unusual spot than read my column again. I even had one angry man hope that I would be attacked. But I had yet to receive a response as passionate as the one sent to me in reaction to my last column.
Last Friday I wrote a column that was influenced in part by my hope for our country’s future and in part by my admiration for a professor at UC Davis. Before I sent it to be edited, I allowed the professor a chance to look over her quotes.
Dr. Kiburi supported the column, but requested that I add two short statements. I immediately amended my column accordingly. Unfortunately, I made a rather careless mistake and sent the rough draft of my column to my editor instead of my final version. This printed version did not include two facts that Dr. Kiburi wanted me to add, resulting in a column that, in the words of the professor, caused “extreme damage to my family and me.”
In an attempt to correct the hurt feelings caused by my carelessness I will include these facts now.
Dr. Kiburi’s husband is a professor at CSUS.
The educational strategy she used to help her children worked. All five of her children have university degrees – most have master‘s.
Through the accidental omission of these statements, I seemed to have turned something that was meant to be positive into a tragic experience.
Luckily, something good actually came out of this embarrassing situation. I learned something – everyone reads things differently. Let me give you an example.
I believed that I was relating a simple anecdote when I wrote that Dr. Kiburi’s decision to home school her children (which, for the record, had marvelous results) was brave and that I wanted to shake her hand. I assumed that people would read this as a testament to the tremendous love she felt for her children and her dedication to giving them an excellent education. In fact, I spoke to many people who had that specific reaction.
However, Dr. Kiburi was concerned that others may read this column and see her as a single mother who was in a family situation without love or support. She informed me that one student believed that this story “[reinforces] negative stereotypes about African American values, family, and behaviors.” What many saw as positive, some saw as negative.
According to another source, my “[column] is full of glaring generalizations and seeks to set aside African Americans as deviant and pathological.“
Seeing as how I have always prided myself on accepting other people and rebuking racism, it had not occurred to me that the simple story would have implications beyond the positive ones I had intended. This reminded me of the one other time that my actions had been misconstrued as prejudiced.
I was teaching a group of middle-school students when a Mexican American child complained that I was favoring one of his African American classmates. When I explained to him that he had to wait his turn for my help, he shouted, “You just hate me because I’m Mexican!” As I am also Mexican American, I was bewildered by his accusation. To this day, I wonder how he could have attributed my actions as a response to his ethnicity.
“If you had written less about yourself, you would have had more room to tell the authentic truth about our family,“ Dr. Kiburi stressed.
Unfortunately for you all, I do write about myself quite a bit. However, the aim of the column was to portray the hope that I feel for our nation’s future. Now all I can do is remain optimistic that these two additions will work toward mending the situation and relating the authentic truth.
DANIELLE RAMIREZ thinks that everyone makes mistakes. To reach her e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.