I am in Paradise. I was officially welcomed to Paradise as soon as I got off my plane in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Actually, I am in a double Paradise considering that I am staying at a beautiful beach resort.
In a day or so this place will get busy with my colleagues who are getting together for the inaugural conference of the International Society for Diversity and Inclusion Professionals. And for a few days we will have passionate conversations about very important topics and rush to swimming pools at the end of the day to cool off and enjoy.
There is one right next to my building. I went there as soon as I dropped my bags in the room. I asked for a towel and got an uncomfortable explanation from a friendly young man at the counter that towels were only for red-level guests.
Red-level guests? It took a moment to compute.
A few minutes prior when I was checking in at the front desk a clerk put a blue bracelet on my wrist. It looks like something you get at the hospital or at the amusement park. This bracelet means that I am a guest at the resort. It means that I belong. I had no problem being marked as a part of the in group.
Now – here I am ready to jump into this enticingly turquoise water and being told that towels that are rightfully mine are at the main pool and that walking there along the beach will take me no time.
I am not “us” anymore. I am now “them” or at least not “us enough”.
That does not feel right. I am about to get all righteous about it but my logical brain starts its boring reasoning with me.
It reminds me how flying here I enjoyed the fact that my frequent-flyer status with American Airlines gets me through a much shorter line at security.
But – I argue right back – they now started some new program that allows people to go through security even quicker and I have not had a chance to sign-up. That did not feel fair to stay in a short line and watch people walking through with no line at all. Here I thought I was in and I was not in enough, even there!
I came all the way to this Puerto Rican paradise to engage with my colleagues on issues of diversity and inclusion, power and privilege, differences and ways to bridge them. I came all the way here and brought with me an everyday and every minute reality of our relationship with privilege – now you have it, now you don’t.
I don’t like not having my privileges. At the same time I also have problems having privilege, since the nature of the beast is such that any moment I enjoy some kind of a privilege automatically means somebody else does not.
I need to clear my head around this.
I think I’ll go for a swim.