“I’ve shared my experiences and my feelings because I know I’m not the only one…Let us speak up, let us speak out, and let us make change happen. But really…on an individual level, what would justice even look like?” Warning – deep deeply pessimistic mood.
I’ve lost the luxury of knowing that I matter. I no longer feel passionately sure about what’s next. Truth be told, the reality is, maybe I do not matter, neither do the billions of people in poverty nor the needs of developing countries. Maybe there truly is no hope for economic or development justice. If this is the world order and the nature of things for the majority to be exploited and dismissed, then the noble goal I thought existed was simply me being naive.
Maybe I’ve given up or I’ve been beaten into accepting that I am broken.
I have no idea when this feeling will go away or if it ever will. I look all around me and acknowledge the horrors around the world do not compare to the issues I’m trying to overcome. Then a part of me wonders if this isn’t one in the same, the product of globalized racism.
I wish I had the answers. I wish I knew what is the right thing to do. In this age of “calling out injustice” and “cancel culture”, I feel like there are enough people worldwide bringing attention to the issues to enable the conversation to move from “growing awareness” to “active problem solving”. Yet, I doubt that we are there with respect to the international development field. Shrouded by silence, retaliatory repercussions, and institutionally weaponized compliance, leaders are more concerned with negative publicity. The effects on donors, far outweigh the need to address systematic problems affecting the mental health and well-being of those affected.
On a personal level, more than anything, my deepest regret is the debilitating effect this ill-treatment has had on my potential. I suffered through 2 1/2 years of workplace abuse, bullying, intimidation, harassment and sexual assault. I collapsed and I’m still inching through a long recovery. I had invested too much to walk away, and when I did try to walk away, they demonstrated that I couldn’t. Feeling trapped, belittled and hammered down to nothing but a quivering nail biting recluse, I was scared to be in the office. I was even more afraid of a negative formal or informal referral from supervisors who made it clear how much I didn’t matter. I feared for my future while living in a hostile present.
At first I thought I was being paranoid or silly, until I noticed that the reason they gave for letting me go kept changing. Budget restrictions became the final excuse they landed on. They later advertised my job to be filled by 2 people. That raised a few eyebrows, but even a formal appeal proved fruitless..I just wasn’t the”right fit”.
What does that even mean, “fit”.
I questioned whether I had hallucinated my Masters Degree program, and that was refuted when I got a notification about my outstanding students’ loan balance. They couldn’t wait for me to clear my office. I learned I was taking up space that was meant for the white male who didn’t even have a degree, how ironic. He got my office, he apparently deserved it, he had many internal sponsors given his European Part I connections. Yes, my workplace divided countries into the privileged rich – Part I, and the poor recipients of their generosity – Part II.
As the classification suggests I was treated as second class. So were my colleagues from developing countries. Unsurprisingly, so were the leadership from Part II countries.
From my perch I observed the unspoken hierarchy. I was in high-level meeting rooms and overheard high-level conversations filled with ignorance and stereotypes from “well-meaning” powerful people. I exchanged knowing glances with high-level representatives as we received commentary that cut each word with finely sharpened knives. We held our gasps and hid our outrage behind steel walls of professionalism. Everyday, we went home with the hurt, and lost a bit of ourselves. Invisible, I overheard words not meant to be repeated in “mixed company” and I came to learn very quickly that poverty meant being looked down upon and treated as less than.
As my “Type A” personality tries to reboot, I aim to view the world through my new lens. However instead of remaining in mourning, I want to view things more strategically. In that, I’ve failed. I’ve had more questions than anything else.
How do you feel about global racism?
Do you think that by sharing our stories anyone will be compelled to address these issues?
Will there be meaningful change without some amount of force?
What would justice look like?
I firmly believe that if we can change the internal culture of these organizations, then we can make an immense difference in how decisions are made, resources are allocated and priorities are set. Power will flow to each Executive Director’s office to gain equal respect regardless of whether they are donor or recipient. There will be strength in empowerment. Maybe I’m being a dreamer, maybe I’m still being naive…but I miss that feeling. I miss having it…I miss…Hope.