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I am a brown girl from India pursuing my graduate school. My English is fluent, not heavily accented, Americans do understand it without me having to repeat myself 95 percent of the time (from my experience with people). That's because I went to an Anglo Indian English-medium school. I've spoken enough English to call it my first language.

I was one of the organizers of a hackathon that ended yesterday. I was not paid for this job. It was voluntary. Let's call the lead organizer X, my teammate (another organizer) and her close friend Y, and a girl from another team Z. For the hackathon in question, I was in charge of judging. My duties include making sure to check them in on the day of judging and explaining them the rules.

Throughout the hackathon, I observed that Y stayed away from talking to the two brown girls in the team, the Chinese-American, and the African-American. So other than X (white), she spoke only with the other white girls. X was ill towards the end of the hackathon so she made Y in charge in her absence and left. Before leaving she announced on Slack that I am the head of judging and that Z should help me if she could. She also explained Z the judging instructions (not in my presence).

It was time for the judges to arrive. As the first judge arrived, I started to check her in and meanwhile, Z jumps out of nowhere and starts to explain everything that I was planning to do (and supposed to do as the head) after all the judges arrive. After I felt that she was going too much in detail, I stopped her to tell her that I was going to do that later anyway after I gather all the judges. She looked at me and said that she knew that. After that, she started behaving weirdly with me. As another judge walked in and was just reading at the posters on the wall, another teammate told her that he was a judge too. Z took the chance again to hand him the information sheet which I was going to give out and told him to go to the lab without even checking him in or giving him swag. I felt it was passive-aggressive.

While I'm not sure if Z is racist, I feel that Y or even X (before leaving) might have told Z to take over judging without making it look obvious because of maybe my accent being Indian or something like that. Work-wise, I've been sincere, polite, finishing work punctually, sharing the workload of Y too so I don't consider myself any less capable to work. I didn't want to confront Z for the need to maintain a peaceful atmosphere just as the hackathon was coming to an end. I didn't want to approach Y because I knew that she's not going to be friendly about it. Neither did I want to disturb X when she was so haggard.

Since I was in a situation where I was uncomfortable and without X to help me resolve, I decided to go home. It may sound like I don't live up to my commitments but I didn't want to overpower Z and beat her at proving my ability. Since I wasn't being paid, I didn't feel the need to resolve it then and there, especially without X present. So, I told Y that I was ill and that I wanted to leave. I also told her that X seemed to have explained everything well to Z and that she should be able to manage.

I left hurt and couldn't stop thinking about what happened. I don't want to consider it racism just because I am an Indian in the US. I want to look at it objectively. The more I think of it, the more I feel that it may actually be that. I feel the need to talk about it with X but I don't want to tense up the situation now that the hackathon is over. I discussed this with a friend and they told me that it should have been resolved on the spot if needed and talking about it now is too late. It's not even been 24 hours since it ended but my argument is that X was ill and it would be too rude to disturb her over personal egos. Now that she might be better, I feel it's important to tell her what I feel and get closure. There would have been no point telling Z directly, for, who knows if she'd escalate it and blow it out of proportion and also get Y's support when it was X who made me the head of judging.

  • hey BlackSwan. What is your expectation for your talk with X? What do you expect X to do to resolve this situation? How does a 'resolved' situation look like to you, what resolution are we working towards? – Tinkeringbell Feb 10 at 13:40
  • I've also edited your question a bit, as the only question mark in the post was behind a type of question that's off-topic here (asking what you should do). If you could add an expectation for your talk with X though, I can also reopen it fairly quickly. I'd also invite you to look at interpersonal.meta.stackexchange.com/a/1385/1599 (specifically the paragraphs titled 'the larger picture, where the post explains how too much detail can be detrimental to getting a great answer to your question) .. 1/2 – Tinkeringbell Feb 10 at 14:00
  • and interpersonal.meta.stackexchange.com/a/1389/1599, a post that explains why I edited your title, and I would encourage you to keep that in mind for further editing of the question body too: Try to stick with facts, you don't need to defend your feelings about all this in the post as well. :) – Tinkeringbell Feb 10 at 14:02