And at that point, I just had one question and I said, “I’ve got one question to ask you, can you grade my work fairly?” And she began to escalate, continued to escalate and yell and talk to me in degrading and disrespectful ways. And I repeated my question. I said, “Can you grade my work fairly?” One of the things that I’m most embarrassed about to admit as a black man is when I entered into the field of Psychotherapy into the helping professions. I did not anticipate experiencing racism. I’ve experienced racism a lot throughout my life.
Like the very first time I experienced racism, I was probably about eight years old, and I can remember having a babysitter that I really liked, like at that time of my life having a babysitter that you liked was awesome. Some babysitters that my Mom would get, they didn’t have a lot of toys or we watched a lot of adult television, like the Brady Bunch. And that to an eight year old boy that’s super duper boring. And my Mom would sometimes say, you’re going to go to stay with such and such a babysitter.
And I’d be like, no, I don’t want to go to that babysitter. And then my mom found this babysitter who was wonderful. Like she had toys and a backyard and we could play and she was kind and lovely and wonderful and nurturing. And then one day we stopped going to see that babysitter. We just stopped going to where she lived, but we were driving on our way to church. And we drove by her street and my little eight year old brain remembered, hey, that’s the babysitters street. And we haven’t been there in a really long time. And I asked my mother, how come? How come we haven’t been to this babysitter in a really long time. I saw her pause and she thought for a minute.
And in hindsight, she must’ve been thinking, do I tell my eight year old child the truth? Or do I protect his feelings? But my mom decided to tell the truth. And she said, Mrs. So-and-so’s landlord found out that she was babysitting young black children and told her if she did not stop, he would evict her so she could no longer babysit us.
And that’s the first time I can remember kind of overt discriminatory racism. And it happens so frequently until consistently in the life of a young brown person in America, in the eighties and nineties that I just, I learned to anticipate it. If I went to a new school or if I joined a new athletic team, I just learned to anticipate there would be some level of discrimination and racism.
But when I got to the helping professions, I didn’t anticipate it. I just expected that a group of people that made their living helping others and making others feel good, that wouldn’t be the right kind of incubation environment for hatred, bigotry and racism. I just couldn’t have imagined it. And I also remember n aively thinking and on some level we’re all equals, we all have the same degree level, licensure level, like we’re even, and as a consequence, I just didn’t anticipate that there would be a space for racism and bigotry.
But how I learned that I was wrong, there actually was space for these things is, I was in graduate school. And by this time I had begun kind of lecturing a little bit, and I was starting to give workshops at conferences and things. And I was in graduate school. And I remember I had to go to Sweden to give a lecture. I was going to miss the first week of class and I called the professor and I said, I have to go to Sweden to give a lecture. And I’d like to get your permission to miss the first week of class.
Now I knew that there were other people more senior in the graduate program that we’re also giving lectures that had missed classes, and oftentimes they were supported. They would come back and the professors would like get up and run the room and tell the class what it was like to be in, you know, Switzerland or Denmark or Amsterdam or wherever they were doing their lectures.
And this professor I asked, could I have permission to go? And the professor said yes, and told me, it’s the first week of class, we’re going to be taking a quiz in the second week of class. Here’s the topic and have a good time teaching in Sweden. So I went, I went to Sweden and I taught, and I did my thing and I came back and I remember going to the class.
So it’s the second week of class and there was a real bad storm that night. I’ll never forget. I remember it like it was yesterday. I thought about not going to class cause the storm was so bad, but I had missed the first class and didn’t want to miss this one. So I went. I remember she was teaching her lesson and I had a question and I raised my hand and I asked my question and she very angrily said to me, if you had been here last week, you would know the answer to that question.
And I was so shocked and taken aback. I was just like, why are you talking to me that way? You knew where I was, what I was doing. Other students had gone and given lectures in other places and they’d come back as kind of heralded, like you’re, you’re a student doing these great things, get up in the front of the room and share the great things you’re doing. And for me, you’re snapping at me that if I had been there the previous week, I would have known the answer to that question. It was mind boggling. And there were a few other snarky moments that happened in the class.
The professor gave a quiz. I took the quiz, it was a little like kind of 10 item thing. And I left, just kind of boggled, blown away a bit about what happened. And I went home and, you know, lived my week. And I came back the next week for the, now the third week of class, the second week that I had attended.
And the professor handed back the quizzes and I had gotten zero out of 10. And I was so like, what? I got none of the answers right. And there was a friend of mine sitting next to me and I said, “Can I see your quiz?” And she said, “Yes”. And she gives it to me.
And I lined them up and multiple answers that we had given were the same, but on her quiz, they were given the correct mark. And on my paper, they were given the incorrect mark. And I just remember shaking my head thinking, that’s just not fair. She gives the same answer as I do and on her paper, they’re correct and on my paper, they’re incorrect.
And I went up to the front of the room to talk to the professor and I said, “Is there an error here? Because I’m on my friend’s paper, the same answers they’re given correct marks on hers and incorrect ones for mine. So is there an error here?” And she looked at me very angrily and said, “I don’t want to do this now”. And I said, “Okay. I just had this quick question because it doesn’t look like this is fair”. And again, she snapped, “I don’t want to do this now”. And I went back and sat in the rest of the class and I sat quietly waiting on class to end.
Then class ended and I approached her and said, “Now, may I ask you, is this fair? Is this accurate?” And she got real mad and started yelling at me about how she thought I would be more serious as a student. And she didn’t appreciate how I missed the first week. Like very angrily and aggressively and inappropriately for a professor yelling at me.
And at that point I just had one question and I said, “I’ve got one question to ask you, can you grade my work fairly?” And she began to escalate, continued to escalate and yell and talk to me in degrading and disrespectful ways. And I repeated my question. I said, “Can you grade my work fairly?” And she began to continue to escalate and become angry.
And I said, “Okay, I’m going to accept your attitude as a no, I no longer believe you can grade my work fairly. Thank you for letting me know”. I packed my stuff and I left. The next week I went to go speak to my advisor, told my advisor I wanted to drop the class. And my advisor told me the way that you drop the classes, I have to fill out this drop form. My advisor has to sign it. And the professor in the class has to sign it. So I went to the professor’s office to get her to sign it. She was not there. I went back to my advisor, “What do I do she’s not there”. And he said, “Well, this is very common.
Give it to me. I’ll have her sign it, we’ll turn it in. And you’ll be all sorted”. So I did that. I gave him the form. He instructed me he was going to take it to that professor. And that professor was going to sign it. And I will have effectively dropped out of that class. After realizing this professor could not grade my work fairly.
So in the semester comes and the class I remained in, I got an A in it. And then the class that I attempted to drop some weeks and months prior, I got an F and I was so mad that, you know, you can’t be in school if you have an F on your transcript. And I was so angry and I went to this professor and I said, “I dropped the class three weeks before the drop deadline”. And she said, “No, you didn’t”. And I said, “Yes, I did. I filled out the form. I took it to my advisor who took it to you”. And she said, “I never got it. So the grade you got was an F.
You never came back to class”. And I went to that professor and the professor said, “No, I absolutely gave it to her”. And we went to this professor and she said, “Nope, never got it”. I later found out that she was walking around the hallways of the school, celebrating that she’s the professor that failed Elliott Connie out of class. And it was such a devastating experience because I’d played by the rules.
I’d done everything I was supposed to do and you were giving me a consequence that I did not deserve. I ended up having to hire an attorney and the attorney had to, you know, do their legal things and threatened these particular actions and threatened the level of publicity that the school would experience as unpleasant to get me back into school and allow me to continue my pursuit of a advanced degree, which eventually worked. I did get back into school and was allowed to continue to pursue my degree. And after that, there have been subsequent lessons to let me know that racism and bigotry exists in the helping professions and in the academic world.
And I make this video and share this story because I know there are women. I know there are people of color. I know there are people with disabilities that were also blindsided by experiences in their profession that they did not expect to have. I know they were discriminated against, hated upon, people trying to stop your growth as a professional, or even as a person.
And I’m sharing this story, which is not easy for me to share, but I’m sharing it for you so you know that you are not alone. I’m sharing this story so that you know that it is overcomeable. I’ve gone on to write many books, become one of the most visible people in our entire field. The people who hated me and wanted my career to stop flourishing were not successful. And I say that because of the people who are trying to impact you and get in your way, they won’t be successful either if you just continue to work and thrive and push.
And I want you to know you’re not alone. I want to support you. I want to be there with you. I want you to know that…I want to inspire, and I want you to know that you can become what your dreams allow you to become. So, you know, I want you to leave a comment in this video and just share your experience with racism, bigotry, and discrimination, just so I can interact with you and comment with you so that we can all be a community together and support one another as we walk this journey as people. You know,
I think that’s what this is about really. I’m not, I mean, I’m a black person, I’m a male person. Like I think we have to get better at talking to people as people, instead of the qualifying type of people that they are. Because the fact that we are people is much more important than any of the qualifying variables that make us us.
And I want this to be a community of love, support, equality. I want this to be a community of safety. And I want you to know I can come here and get inspired because Elliott been through these things too. And he has continued to push and he’s made something of himself. And if Elliott can do it, I can do it.
Like Elliott is not a unicorn. Elliott is not a superhero. Elliott is not special in any way than anybody watching this video is also not. The gifts that I have and the things that allow me to do the things that I do, you have to. And if I could do what you can do, and if I can do anything in this world, it would be to inspire you to continue to be your best self.
So help me do that by leaving a comment below, upon watching this video, and I will respond to each and everyone as best I can anyway, I will literally respond to each and every one. So we can be a supportive community to know that we’re all in this together.
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