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a coworker prayed for my fiancé’s death so we didn’t invite her to our wedding … and now there is drama

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This post, a coworker prayed for my fiancé’s death so we didn’t invite her to our wedding … and now there is drama , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

My fiancé, “Ted,” has worked for 10 years on a small, very close-knit team, all of whom seem to get along exceptionally well. All the team members and spouses/partners socialize outside of work together as well, and we consider them all to be close friends. We thought they felt the same.

A few months ago, on the way to a work event, Ted and his coworker/best friend “Bob” were involved in a serious car accident and were rushed to the ER. Everyone waited anxiously for hours as they both underwent surgery. Thankfully, they both recovered.

When Ted returned to work, a team member, “Sally,” told him she had a confession to make. She said that while they had been in surgery, she prayed that if God had to let one of them die, she hoped it would be him. (WTF?!?)

Ted was shocked and asked why. He said she gushed on and on about what a “saint” Bob is. (Her examples were that Bob gives her great advice on her struggling marriage and has loaned her money when she was in a tight spot.) She finished by saying, “No disrespect to you, but Bob is in a class by himself. You have to admit you can’t measure up to that” and walked away.

Ted was truly devastated to learn that she felt this way, but he tried to attribute it to the stress of the situation and did his best to put it behind him. He never told anyone else on the team what she said and tried to continue on at work as if nothing had happened, but his relationship with Sally hasn’t recovered. He is still deeply wounded by her comments.

Although Ted appears to be a confident person, underneath he is fairly insecure. He truly thought Sally was a good friend. So in addition to causing him a lot of pain, this has also rattled his confidence. Now he’s wondering if all his team members secretly feel the way she does. Ted and Sally have always seemed to have a warm, cordial relationship and he can’t understand why she would say such a hurtful thing. Ted is now constantly measuring himself against Bob and questioning why he isn’t as “good.”

I suggested that perhaps Sally has a crush on Bob or feels closer to him for reasons that have nothing to do with Ted. But he is convinced that thinks she sees him as a “second tier” man and worries that others do too.

Our wedding is coming up soon and the venue strictly limits the number of guests. When it was time to send out invitations, Ted invited the rest of the team and their spouses but did not invite Sally and her husband. I expressed my concern that this would cause more problems, but he replied that since we could only have a limited numbers of guests, he’d prefer to spend our special day with another pair of close friends who “genuinely love and appreciate” us rather than a woman with whom his relationship is now severely strained.

Two weeks ago, I got a call from another team member, “Alice,” asking me if I had forgotten to send an invitation to Sally. I explained that because the venue is small, we simply couldn’t invite everyone.

Alice then told Ted that if we didn’t invite Sally, she and the other women on the team wouldn’t attend either. Ted told her that since the invitations have already gone out, there is no way to add Sally and her husband now unless we “uninvited” two other guests, which we can not do.

Now all the women on the team, including Sally, are freezing Ted out. They refuse to speak to him except when forced to, which is really starting to adversely impact the collaborative work the team does and hampering Ted’s ability to do his job. The men on the team have sided with Ted, saying they feel we have the right to invite (or not invite) whomever we want to our own wedding. This has caused an even further rift in the team.

Everyone is questioning Ted about why we didn’t invite Sally, but he doesn’t feel it’s his place to explain why he doesn’t want her to attend and just keeps repeating that the decision was due to the venue size limitations.

The manager of the team works at another site, and because the team has previously worked so well together, has historically been fairly hands-off, and is oblivious to what is happening now. But if the work continues to suffer, she’s going to notice and ask what’s going on.

What, if anything, should Ted do? Should he preemptively go to the manger to give her a heads/up, or will that make it even worse to be seen as “tattling”? Is there anything he can do to “fix” this on the team, before it erodes their work product even more?

I did weaken and called the venue, who grudgingly said they would be willing to accommodate one more couple. Should we break down and invite Sally to the wedding for the sake of harmony at work?

What a mess.

I completely understand why you wouldn’t want Sally at your wedding! She prayed your fiancé would die. Maybe not exactly … but pretty close to it. And then for some reason, she felt the need to tell him. Why?! She should have kept it to herself; there was no need to inform Ted and if she hadn’t, presumably life at work would have just gone on as before. So Sally sounds like a bit of a nut.

However.

I’m not a fan of pressuring people into wedding invitations, but you also can’t exclude one person from a tight-knit group and expect that not to send a message and cause drama. You’ve got to either invite the whole group, or invite fewer of them so you’re not leaving out just one person, or leave out the one person and accept that it’s going to be A Thing. You and Ted chose the latter option but are hoping it won’t cause drama, and that’s not realistic.

It’s especially not going to happen when no one knows why Ted is upset with Sally. From what they can see, they had a close, tight-knit group of work friends and now Ted has randomly and hurtfully decided to exclude one person for no reason.

I get that he’s trying to blame it on the venue size, but that doesn’t really work when you’ve excluded one person from a “tier” of wedding guests. It wouldn’t work if he had excluded one uncle or one niece, and it doesn’t work when you exclude one of a very close team of colleagues. People are going to read something into it and be hurt.

The drama that it’s causing is pretty excessive — coworkers freezing him out and refusing to speak to him except when forced, to the point that it’s affecting their work, is a weirdly intense reaction (as well as inappropriate and unprofessional). That’s likely a sign that the boundaries on this team were messed up before any of this happened, and that’s why the wedding invitations are functioning as a bomb rather than more like an exploding soda can.

And again, in theory you should be able to invite whoever you want to your wedding and exclude anyone you don’t want there. And you can! You just can’t do it without consequence, and that’s what you’re seeing now.

As for what to do, if Ted wants to stick to his decision, he’s probably better off just being matter-of-fact about why: “Normally we would have loved to have the whole group, but when Bob and I were in the hospital Sally told me she prayed for me to die if one of us had to. So we’re not asking her to celebrate our wedding with us.” Then at least people would have context. It will probably cause a different kind of drama, but if Ted can stay matter-of-fact about it (“it is what it is and we can still work together fine, but it didn’t make sense to ask her to be at the wedding”) it’s probably a better option than the drama of No One Knows Why Ted Did Such an Unkind Thing.

Frankly, it might also be an opportunity to clear the air with Sally. It sounds like she might have no idea why Ted didn’t invite her. He could sit down with her and say, “I’m sorry this has gotten so out-of-hand. I should have spoken to you earlier. I was really hurt by what you said to me after Bob’s and my accident. I’d thought we were close friends, and I haven’t been able to get past you telling me that you prayed I’d die if one of us had to. It’s why we didn’t ask you to be at our wedding, but I’m realizing that I should have talked with you about it earlier.”

It’s possible that conversation could move things to a much better place. Maybe Sally didn’t realize how her remark came across and maybe she’ll be mortified in hindsight. Maybe it’ll turn out she was addled by painkillers when they talked and this is the latest in her long and embarrassing list of discoveries of things she said that day. Maybe they’ll have the sort of conversation that will make Ted happy to extend a wedding invitation to her. Who knows. But looking at where things stand now, not talking to her about it seems like the worse option. And just giving in and inviting her without having that conversation first doesn’t seem likely to fix things at this point.

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HandEFood
70 days ago
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And read the comments where they write a Dr Seuss book about this incident. 😂
Melbourne, Australia
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iaravps
70 days ago
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"in theory you should be able to invite whoever you want to your wedding and exclude anyone you don’t want there. And you can! You just can’t do it without consequence"
Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
iaravps
70 days ago
just to add, what on earth was Sally's reasoning for telling Ted all that? I could understand it if she felt guilty and wanted his forgiveness, but telling him all the ways Bob deserved life is just not OK...

My White Friend Asked Me on Facebook to Explain White Privilege. I Decided to Be Honest

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Yesterday I was tagged in a post by an old high school friend asking me and a few others a very public, direct question about white privilege and racism. I feel compelled not only to publish his query, but also my response to it, as it may be a helpful discourse for more than just a few folks on Facebook.

Here’s his post:

To all of my Black or mixed race FB friends, I must profess a blissful ignorance of this “White Privilege” of which I’m apparently guilty of possessing. By not being able to fully put myself in the shoes of someone from a background/race/religion/gender/nationality/body type that differs from my own makes me part of the problem, according to what I’m now hearing. Despite my treating everyone with respect and humor my entire life (as far as I know), I’m somehow complicit in the misfortune of others. I’m not saying I’m colorblind, but whatever racism/sexism/other -ism my life experience has instilled in me stays within me, and is not manifested in the way I treat others (which is not the case with far too many, I know).

So that I may be enlightened, can you please share with me some examples of institutional racism that have made an indelible mark upon you? If I am to understand this, I need people I know personally to show me how I’m missing what’s going on. Personal examples only. I’m not trying to be insensitive, I only want to understand (but not from the media). I apologize if this comes off as crass or offends anyone.

Here’s my response:

Hi, Jason. First off, I hope you don’t mind that I’ve quoted your post and made it part of mine. I think the heart of what you’ve asked of your friends of color is extremely important and I think my response needs much more space than as a reply on your feed. I truly thank you for wanting to understand what you are having a hard time understanding. Coincidentally, over the last few days I have been thinking about sharing some of the incidents of prejudice/racism I’ve experienced in my lifetime—in fact I just spoke with my sister Lesa about how to best do this yesterday—because I realized many of my friends—especially the white ones—have no idea what I’ve experienced/dealt with unless they were present (and aware) when it happened. There are two reasons for this: 1) because not only as a human being do I suppress the painful and uncomfortable in an effort to make it go away, I was also taught within my community (I was raised in the ’70s and ’80s—it’s shifted somewhat now) and by society at large NOT to make a fuss, speak out, or rock the boat. To just “deal with it,” lest more trouble follow (which, sadly, it often does); 2) fear of being questioned or dismissed with “Are you sure that’s what you heard?” or “Are you sure that’s what they meant?” and being angered and upset all over again by well-meaning-but-hurtful and essentially unsupportive responses.

White privilege in this situation is being able to move into a “nice” neighborhood and be accepted not harassed.

So, again, I’m glad you asked, because I really want to answer. But as I do, please know a few things first: 1) This is not even close to the whole list. I’m cherry-picking because none of us have all day; 2) I’ve been really lucky. Most of what I share below is mild compared to what others in my family and community have endured; 3) I’m going to go in chronological order so you might begin to glimpse the tonnage and why what many white folks might feel is a “where did all of this come from?” moment in society has been festering individually and collectively for the LIFETIME of pretty much every black or brown person living in America today, regardless of wealth or opportunity; 4) Some of what I share covers sexism, too—intersectionality is another term I’m sure you’ve heard and want to put quotes around, but it’s a real thing too, just like white privilege. But you’ve requested a focus on personal experiences with racism, so here it goes:

1. When I was 3, my family moved into an upper-middle-class, all-white neighborhood. We had a big backyard, so my parents built a pool. Not the only pool on the block, but the only one neighborhood boys started throwing rocks into. White boys. One day my mom ID’d one as the boy from across the street, went to his house, told his mother, and, fortunately, his mother believed mine. My mom not only got an apology, but also had that boy jump in our pool and retrieve every single rock. No more rocks after that. Then mom even invited him to come over to swim sometime if he asked permission. Everyone became friends. This one has a happy ending because my mom was and is badass about matters like these, but I hope you can see that the white privilege in this situation is being able to move into a “nice” neighborhood and be accepted not harassed, made to feel unwelcome, or prone to acts of vandalism and hostility.

2. When my older sister was 5, a white boy named Mark called her a “nigger” after she beat him in a race at school. She didn’t know what it meant, but in her gut she knew it was bad. This was the first time I’d seen my father the kind of angry that has nowhere to go. I somehow understood it was because not only had some boy verbally assaulted his daughter and had gotten away with it, it had way too early introduced her (and me) to that term and the reality of what it meant—that some white people would be cruel and careless with black people’s feelings just because of our skin color. Or our achievement. If it’s unclear in any way, the point here is if you’ve never had a defining moment in your childhood or your life where you realize your skin color alone makes other people hate you, you have white privilege.

I remember some white male classmates were pissed that a black classmate had gotten into UCLA while they didn’t.

3. Sophomore year of high school. I had Mr. Melrose for Algebra 2. Some time within the first few weeks of class, he points out that I’m “the only spook” in the class. This was meant to be funny. It wasn’t. So, I doubt it will surprise you I was relieved when he took medical leave after suffering a heart attack and was replaced by a sub for the rest of the semester. The point here is, if you’ve never been ‘the only one’ of your race in a class, at a party, on a job, etc. and/or it’s been pointed out in a “playful” fashion by the authority figure in said situation, you have white privilege.

4. When we started getting our college acceptances senior year, I remember some white male classmates were pissed that a black classmate had gotten into UCLA while they didn’t. They said that affirmative action had given him “their spot” and it wasn’t fair. An actual friend of theirs. Who’d worked his ass off. The point here is, if you’ve never been on the receiving end of the assumption that when you’ve achieved something it’s only because it was taken away from a white person who “deserved it,” you have white privilege.

5. When I got accepted to Harvard (as a fellow AP student, you were witness to what an academic beast I was in high school, yes?), three separate times I encountered white strangers as I prepped for my maiden trip to Cambridge that rankle to this day. The first was the white doctor giving me a physical at Kaiser:

Me: “I need to send an immunization report to my college so I can matriculate.”

Doctor: “Where are you going?”

Me: “Harvard.”

Doctor: “You mean the one in Massachusetts?”

The second was in a store, looking for supplies I needed from Harvard’s suggested “what to bring with you” list.

Store employee: “Where are you going?”

Me: “Harvard.”

Store employee: “You mean the one in Massachusetts?”

The third was at UPS, shipping off boxes of said “what to bring” to Harvard. I was in line behind a white boy mailing boxes to Princeton and in front of a white woman sending her child’s boxes to wherever.

Woman to the boy: “What college are you going to?” Boy: “Princeton.”

Woman: “Congratulations!”

Woman to me: “Where are you sending your boxes?” Me: “Harvard.”

Woman: “You mean the one in Massachusetts?”

I think: “No, bitch, the one downtown next to the liquor store.” But I say, gesturing to my LABELED boxes: “Yes, the one in Massachusetts.”

Then she says congratulations, but it’s too fucking late. The point here is, if no one has ever questioned your intellectual capabilities or attendance at an elite institution based solely on your skin color, you have white privilege.

6. In my freshman college tutorial, our small group of 4–5 was assigned to read Thoreau, Emerson, Malcolm X, Joseph Conrad, Dreiser, etc. When it was the week to discuss The Autobiography of Malcolm X, one white boy boldly claimed he couldn’t even get through it because he couldn’t relate and didn’t think he should be forced to read it. I don’t remember the words I said, but I still remember the feeling—I think it’s what doctors refer to as chandelier pain—as soon as a sensitive area on a patient is touched, they shoot through the roof—that’s what I felt. I know I said something like my whole life I’ve had to read “things that don’t have anything to do with me or that I relate to” but I find a way anyway because that’s what learning is about—trying to understand other people’s perspectives. The point here is—the canon of literature studied in the United States, as well as the majority of television and movies, have focused primarily on the works or achievements of white men. So, if you have never experienced or considered how damaging it is/was/could be to grow up without myriad role models and images in school that reflect you in your required reading material or in the mainstream media, you have white privilege.

7. All seniors at Harvard are invited to a fancy, seated group lunch with our respective dorm masters. (Yes, they were called “masters” up until this February, when they changed it to “faculty deans,” but that’s just a tasty little side dish to the main course of this remembrance). While we were being served by the Dunster House cafeteria staff—the black ladies from Haiti and Boston who ran the line daily (I still remember Jackie’s kindness and warmth to this day)—Master Sally mused out loud how proud they must be to be serving the nation’s best and brightest. I don’t know if they heard her, but I did, and it made me uncomfortable and sick. The point here is, if you’ve never been blindsided when you are just trying to enjoy a meal by a well-paid faculty member’s patronizing and racist assumptions about how grateful black people must feel to be in their presence, you have white privilege.

He was getting stopped by cops constantly because he was a black man in a luxury car.

8. While I was writing on a television show in my 30s, my new white male boss—who had only known me for a few days—had unbeknownst to me told another writer on staff he thought I was conceited, didn’t know as much I thought I did, and didn’t have the talent I thought I had. And what exactly had happened in those few days? I disagreed with a pitch where he suggested our lead female character carelessly leave a potholder on the stove, burning down her apartment. This character being a professional caterer. When what he said about me was revealed months later (by then he’d come to respect and rely on me), he apologized for prejudging me because I was a black woman. I told him he was ignorant and clearly had a lot to learn. It was a good talk because he was remorseful and open. But the point here is, if you’ve never been on the receiving end of a boss’s prejudiced, uninformed “how dare she question my ideas” badmouthing based on solely on his ego and your race, you have white privilege.

9. On my very first date with my now husband, I climbed into his car and saw baby wipes on the passenger-side floor. He said he didn’t have kids, they were just there to clean up messes in the car. I twisted to secure my seatbelt and saw a stuffed animal in the rear window. I gave him a look. He said, “I promise, I don’t have kids. That’s only there so I don’t get stopped by the police.” He then told me that when he drove home from work late at night, he was getting stopped by cops constantly because he was a black man in a luxury car and they assumed that either it was stolen or he was a drug dealer. When he told a cop friend about this, Warren was told to put a stuffed animal in the rear window because it would change “his profile” to that of a family man and he was much less likely to be stopped. The point here is, if you’ve never had to mask the fruits of your success with a floppy-eared, stuffed bunny rabbit so you won’t get harassed by the cops on the way home from your gainful employment (or never had a first date start this way), you have white privilege.

10. Six years ago, I started a Facebook page that has grown into a website called Good Black News because I was shocked to find there were no sites dedicated solely to publishing the positive things black people do. (And let me explain here how biased the coverage of mainstream media is in case you don’t already have a clue—as I curate, I can’t tell you how often I have to swap out a story’s photo to make it as positive as the content. Photos published of black folks in mainstream media are very often sullen- or angry-looking. Even when it’s a positive story! I also have to alter headlines constantly to 1) include a person’s name and not have it just be “Black Man Wins Settlement” or “Carnegie Hall Gets 1st Black Board Member,” or 2) rephrase it from a subtle subjugator like “ABC taps Viola Davis as Series Lead” to “Viola Davis Lands Lead on ABC Show” as is done for, say, Jennifer Aniston or Steven Spielberg. I also receive a fair amount of highly offensive racist trolling. I don’t even respond. I block and delete ASAP. The point here is, if you’ve never had to rewrite stories and headlines or swap photos while being trolled by racists when all you’re trying to do on a daily basis is promote positivity and share stories of hope and achievement and justice, you have white privilege.

Trust me, nobody is mad at you for being white. Nobody.

OK, Jason, there’s more, but I’m exhausted. And my kids need dinner. Remembering and reliving many of these moments has been a strain and a drain (and, again, this ain’t even the half or the worst of it). But I hope my experiences shed some light for you on how institutional and personal racism have affected the entire life of a friend of yours to whom you’ve only been respectful and kind. I hope what I’ve shared makes you realize it’s not just strangers, but people you know and care for who have suffered and are suffering because we are excluded from the privilege you have not to be judged, questioned, or assaulted in any way because of your race.

As to you “being part of the problem,” trust me, nobody is mad at you for being white. Nobody. Just like nobody should be mad at me for being black. Or female. Or whatever. But what IS being asked of you is to acknowledge that white privilege DOES exist and not only to treat people of races that differ from yours “with respect and humor,” but also to stand up for fair treatment and justice, not to let “jokes” or “off-color” comments by friends, co-workers, or family slide by without challenge, and to continually make an effort to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, so we may all cherish and respect our unique and special contributions to society as much as we do our common ground.

With much love and respect,

Lori

This article was originally published by Good Black News. It has been edited for YES! Magazine. 

Read more of on White privilege and racial justice:

10 Examples That Prove White Privilege Exists in Every Aspect Imaginable

The Language of Antiracism

Leveraging White Privilege for Racial Justice

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HandEFood
548 days ago
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Melbourne, Australia
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notadoctor
548 days ago
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that we still have to do this emotional labor for well-meaning white people can be so exhausting. They are taking this so personally and then ask us to calm them down, expose our pain to them, and hope that we are the last person of color they will ask to perform for them so they can avoid using Google in this the year 2020. BUT THEY MEAN WELL I know, but the IMPACT still hurts. Intention does not alter the impact of emotional pain or labor.
Oakland, CA

Laziness Does Not Exist

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HandEFood
696 days ago
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Melbourne, Australia
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Melbourne car rampage: People flying like skittles, say witnesses

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As doctors frantically work on the injured, Melburnians have told tales of chaos, tragedy and miracle escapes all along Bourke Street Mall.
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HandEFood
1783 days ago
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I left 15 minutes before this happened. Life is sometimes just a series of good and bad luck events.
Melbourne, Australia
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Buni

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2015-09-30-Buni

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HandEFood
2262 days ago
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Melbourne, Australia
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HandEFood
2272 days ago
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Melbourne, Australia
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