I woke up this morning and was glancing at the news headlines. As I was reading, I came across an article about David Bonderman, Uber Technologies Inc. director, resigning from the company’s board of directors. According to the reports, during a staff meeting, Arianna Huffington, who also sits on the Uber board of directors, commented,
There’s a lot of data that shows when there’s one woman on the board, it’s much more likely that there will be a second woman on the board.
In response, Bonderman commented,
Actually, what it shows is that it’s much more likely to be more talking.
As I read the article, I began to wonder, how did Ariana Huffington respond to this comment? Was she offended when the words came out of his mouth? Did she use this as a teaching moment? Did she say anything in response to Bonderman’s comment? Then I began to wonder, how offended would I, the self-proclaimed feminist, be if I was present when the comment was made. And, my honest answer was, not enough to think he should resign from the board of directors. Sure, I might look at him and think, “That was dumb as hell.” And, there is a possibility that I would have said, “That was a sexist thing to say.” But, I could not imagine concluding that the only acceptable recourse for his comment was board resignation.
Was it an ignorant comment on Bonderman’s part? Certainly;
Was it sexist? Most definitely;
But, should this ignorant, sexist comment have led to his resignation from the board of directors? No. That was excessive, at least in my opinion.
Stories like this make me thoroughly confused about what position we are advancing as a society. Time and again I hear people say, we need to come to the table and begin an open dialogue about racism and sexism. I wholeheartedly agree. An open dialogue allows us to talk freely about some of the racist, sexist beliefs that people embrace and their effects on the people that are the subject of these beliefs. Through such dialogue, we can begin to understand one another, dismantle some of those thought processes, and create a plan that will reduce the number of people that hold on to these beliefs.
An open dialogue, in my opinion, is absolutely necessary if we want to begin to dismantle racist, sexist beliefs. But, who in the world is going to take the risk of coming to the table to discuss their racist, sexist thoughts when our society is so quick to pull the trigger, and quite frankly, overreact, when they share their thoughts? Overreacting is making it impossible for us to take the first step towards understanding and acceptance.
Will an open dialogue eradicate all racism and sexism? Of course not. As humans we come to the table with different experiences that mold us and help to shape our belief systems. For some, racism and sexism will be with them until they die. However, forcing racist and sexist people into the closet, by overreacting and being so quick to pull the trigger, means we are missing an opportunity to affect any change. At least, that is what I believe.