Want to Know How Marrett Green Responds to Hostility and Racism?
Well, According to a Stranger Named Nick ...
It’s been in recent news a Black man was refused entry into his apartment building by a woman who was clearly looking to ‘get a conversation started,’ from her dominant position of ‘power.’ I feel for him, but really, that’s nothing compared to my ordeal a few years ago at a Vancouver public library, where I had a (White) woman desperately trying to get my attention, and two (White) gentlemen desperately trying to be her ‘hero’.
With this letter below as evidence, I could have easily brought them to the Human Rights Tribunal, however chose not to because the VPL admin made it clear to me they were handling the matter, appropriately. And besides, one of the ‘heroes’ was very close to retirement, and him losing a case at the HRT for his out of control (racist?) conduct, could have impacted badly…don’t need/ want that on my Conscience.
Regardless, thanks to another gentleman at the library, (Mr. Norm C.) who witnessed the whole thing, (a stranger to me, even still) you can see how it’s just not easy being Black like me in the 21st Century.
Note: Megan is VPL admin management assigned to manage the matter.
On Dec 25, 2016 10:09 PM, "Nick C" wrote:
Hi Marrett and Megan,
I’m not entirely sure what the focus of this investigation is, so I’m not sure if what I will write is fully relevant. However, I wrote a bunch of notes while the incident was taking place. I won’t send those (but could, if necessary), but here is a more coherent summary of those notes, and my overall impression given the benefit of hindsight and reflection. Apologies if this is far more than necessary.
This whole thing started with a lady objecting to Marrett making noise while eating. I honestly don’t know if Marrett was eating or not. In fact, I didn’t even know he was there at all despite the fact that I was there all day – everyone at the table was quiet, as they should have been given it was the silent study space. Given that he never really said that he wasn’t eating, I’ll assume he was – but again, I didn’t see or notice it happening.
I’m sure VPL has legitimate reasons for not allowing food in the library, but he wasn’t bothering anyone except for the lady in question, who I presume had also recently arrived. Given how innocuous this is in comparison to the sorts of disruptive behaviour I regularly see from patrons at the Britannia and Carnegie libraries, it seems like this is probably a policy that is/should be loosely enforced, on the level of jaywalking or other such minor infractions. I eat snacks at the library from time to time, but also do so quietly and discretely (as Marrett seemingly was as well).
Anyway, the lady seemed to be bothered not for the food itself, but for the noise he was making while eating, which, again, I hadn’t even noticed. Still, I can’t tell her what to be disrupted by, but her response was completely unreasonable. Rather than quietly asking him to stop, as a reasonable person would do – to which I believe Marrett would have happily obliged – she was quite loud and rude in her demands, to which he replied that she was being considerably more disruptive than he was. After some back and forth, during which he was quite calmand articulate, she suddenly claimed she couldn’t hear him and that she had hearing problems. When he said this made no sense, given they had been talking for a while, she was deeply offended that he would make fun of her condition. He ignored her and everyone went back to work.
Not long after, she got angry and disruptive again – once again, I didn’t notice him eating or doing anything else – and this time a different patron asked her to quiet down. They had a brief interchange, before she again started claiming that she couldn’t hear him. He ignored her and we all went back to work.
I didn’t note the following sequence of events, but she must have gone to the front to complain, because at some point a library employee came back, which is when the real confrontation started. This employee was fairly reasonable, focusing mostly on the issue of food in the library. But the discussion then led from food to overall level of disturbances and general rights of library patrons, where Marrett was making the completely reasonable argument that he wasn’t bothering anyone and it was the lady who was being grossly disruptive. A unanimous show of hands from the others at the table supported this.
At some point during this, another employee came back, perhaps this is the “elderly gent” that Marrett referred to in his previous email, and he was completely unreasonable. He couldn’t have been there for more than 20 seconds when he started passing judgments on Marrett’s behaviour, to which Marrett replied, again quite calm and articulately, that this man simply could not say anything because he was completely ignorant to the situation as he had only been there for a matter of seconds. He – not recognizing the difference between being called ignorant of the situation/facts and an ignorant person in general (though his behaviour certainly leads one to believe this may, in fact, be the case) – became quite defensive and hostile, and threaten to call the police to which Marrett encouraged him to do so, and would do it himself if they would not start respecting him and his rights. It was at this point that I started taking notes, because what had started as a squabble could have possibly become something far more consequential and I wanted to have an honest, objective and complete account for Marrett’s defense if it came to that.
They then all left to go to the front and continue the discussion. I have no idea of what happened there and did not witness anything related to the library manager, whom Marrett mentioned in his prior email. I do know that one of the other men at the table went up front at some point, presumably in Marrett’s defense since we had been chatting about how absurd the whole situation was.
Once everyone was back, the lady started being disruptive again, this time saying that she had severe a nut allergy. This may be true, but I suspect that it isn’t since she surely would have said this from the start rather than saying he was too noisy (followed by periodic spells of deafness which would negate the noise factor). Again, surely Marrett would have immediately stopped eating had she initially said that she had a nut allergy. But this wasn’t the case. I don’t think much happened after this. At some point she left, and Marrett and I continued working silently until closing time, at which point I introduced myself and offered to provide my notes if it became necessary. I then left and haven’t heard anything about this until now.
Anyway, I’m not sure if any of this is helpful. I’ll quickly summarize my views on each of the individuals and their role in the incident.
- Marrett: I believe him to be an honest, decent man, even moreso given how he was the only person who maintained their composure, despite being the target of the numerous injustices. If I had been in his position, I don’t think I would have made as big of a deal out of this (and would certainly not have gone to these lengths). But I’m also a white, straight, and overall highly privileged male who has never had any degree of struggle in life. It’s pretty hard to bother me. I would imagine that this sort of scenario is not an isolated incident for a visible minority, like Marrett, and I wholly support his actions to uphold his rights and dignity, which is why I’ve written in this amount of detail in his support.
- The lady: she is highly inconsistent, irrational and has little control of her emotions. I’m not even upset at her – I think she’s simply not well and could honestly use some counseling or other medical assistance. Given the condition of many patrons at Britannia and Carnegie, I don’t think this conclusion is an unfair stretch to make.
- The first (younger) library employee: seemed like a reasonable person with adequate conflict resolution skills. I don’t have much to say about him.
- The second (older) library employee: probably a nice enough guy (as I would conclude about all library employees that I’ve encountered), but he clearly had a bias against Marrett as no reasonable person would even get involved at all, let alone to try to assert his authority, after such a brief period of observance.
Again, I really don’t know what is going to come of any of this. What can (or even should) be done, really? But If Marrett desires some sort of formal closure to this incident, in the form of an apology from VPL management and/or from the employees involved, I suppose that is not unreasonable and I would support that if I were to be considered a member of a “jury” in this case.
I don’t believe any disciplinary action is required for anyone involved, but I think the older employee could use some conflict resolution training. I’ve seen many employees handle many disruptive and uncomfortable situations quite well at both of these libraries – in fact I’m often quite impressed by how assertively, yet fairly, they tend to deal with problems. If this is part of some sort of training, then it is certainly an effective program. If it’s a result of simply hiring the right sorts of people, then that process is working as well. Perhaps just not in this case.
I doubt that the confrontational lady is part of the discussion at all since she was a patron and not an employee, but again I think a counselor would be helpful, as well as for her to be made aware of the behaviour expected of all library patrons.
Perhaps I’ve grossly overstepped my bounds in saying anything beyond a simple statement of my observations as a witness, but feel free to ignore any further arguments, conclusions or recommendations that I’ve made.
Anyway, I hope this was helpful in some way. I very much enjoy using the libraries, and despite the disproportionate amount of incidents and disturbances that happen at the two libraries I go to most, this has not soured my view of the system or its employees at all.
Please let me know if either of you need any more information from me.
Happy holidays and hopefully everyone will have a positive, productive year, working to make the world a better place in whatever way we can.
Congratulations! If you've made it to here, your understanding is a little more clear, as to being Black Like Me in the 21st Century.