Not your everyday ordinary council meeting
By Lisa R. Grossman, JD, PhD
The Gathering of Voices
“Our lives began to end the day we became silent about the things that matter.” — Martin Luther King Jr.
Probably one of the single most significant and poignant experiences that happened to me in the past six years as a council representative occurred on the last day of the February council meetings. It was Sunday morning and our invited anthropologist, Malachi O’Connor, PhD, was to begin his presentation about Council of Representatives (COR) functioning and how it can be improved. O’Connor focuses on organizations’ cultures and how they need to change. He was to help COR understand APA’s culture as he observed it and the roadblocks to making the changes that APA must address to regain its footing. From working with the Executive Management Group, Board of Directors, Council Leadership Team and COR, O’Connor was to inform APA about the pressure points that block our change. His presentation was to be titled, “APA Council as a Policy-Making Body: Implementing the Vision.” Before he began speaking from the dais, a large gathering composed primarily of women of color all stood together by one microphone on the floor and one woman began to speak to O’Connor. The gist of what she said was that she was offended by some content concerning Native Americans in O’Connor’s report outlining his observations of the August 2015 council meetings. She questioned his competency to observe, report and help COR when he was not sufficiently aware of his cultural bias and macroaggressions. When he apologized and admitted that he didn’t know that what he wrote was offensive, she retorted that “not knowing” is insufficient. She later made a point of stating that it is not OK to ask her or others to be educators. Rather, if one wants to understand and learn about prejudice, bias and discrimination, one should take a Diversity 101 course. She believed that O’Connor should not proceed with his presentation until these issues were addressed with COR. To his credit, O’Connor listened intently, maintained his professionalism and seemed to try his best to understand.