Can you think of a time in a personal and / or professional circumstance when race became a topic of conversation and you either actively changed the subject or avoided the conversation altogether? What did you believe caused you to react in this manner?

It was a joke. A staff room joke. Though I remember it, I am not going to to repeat it. It involved a version of the n- word. It was said, and it was like time stopped. The air was vacuumed out of the room. I know I left, but I don’t remember leaving. I do remember the joke teller stopping by to see me later / the next day and giving me a half-assed apology. In fact, she claimed that I had started with other jokes that had wandered off the appropriate path.

I know, in my head, that I should call people on such statements. That’s not the only time it has happened. I freeze. Whether it was a joke about watermelon from a family member or a former colleague calling her low-level reading students her “future felons,” I just get taken aback by such moments. I mentally stutter – aware of the moment – but suddenly lacking the script or vocabulary. I am aware of the risks, my tone – everything. The moment passes. Another failure. I have given permission.