Matt always had a knack for knowing when our team could use a little comfort food.
When Philando Castile was shot and killed by police, he suggested we talk about how I was feeling over my favorite meal, chicken and ramen. Later, when our team—a vocal mix of conservatives and progressives—had a disagreement over a project around abortion, he was the one who suggested we discuss the conflict over lunch.
Something about the way he used food to manage our team reminded me of my parents. They have a mantra for our argumentative family: “We may argue and disagree, but we should at least do it over a nice meal.”
In the fall, I took time off my job to join the tail end of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign out of her headquarters in Brooklyn. Matt was supportive. “Do what you feel like you need to do,” he reminded me on my last day in the office. I was confident I’d return to the DC office regaling the politics team with tales of campaigning triumph.
I didn’t plan for Clinton to lose, but I don’t just mean that existentially—I mean it logistically, too. I didn’t have a plan B for what I would do on election night, how I’d get home to DC from New York, or what that would look like. Matt was one of the first people to reach out to me when the results started to go south.
“Are you OK? Are you with friends?” he messaged me.
I wasn’t with friends. I wasn’t OK. Everything I had believed seemed to be falling apart around me.
He insisted I get a hotel for the night and deal with everything in the morning. He insisted I reach out to people who cared about me. He insisted I take as much time as I needed before coming back to work. We had talked conceptually about the idea of “calling in Black,” and as my boss, he gave me space to take time to process everything if that’s what I felt I needed to do.
“I could have retreated into myself and not spoken up about how I was feeling. Instead, [my manager] made sure that I had space to really talk about what I was experiencing.”
On my first day back in the office, the team had a sit-down lunch to discuss the election results openly and honestly. It was chicken and ramen.
Clinton losing could have been the start of me looking at my white co-workers with suspicion and disdain. I could have retreated into myself and not spoken up about how I was feeling. Instead, Matt made sure that I had space to really talk about what I was experiencing. And while our politically-opinionated team often disagreed, at least we did it over a delicious meal.