Friday, February 11, 2011

it's there. people just don't say it when they can see you.

A few months ago, two people in the span of a week told me that white people are becoming a minority. One in person to my face, and one on Facebook (where each Wall Update is a direct message to me, naturally). I was pretty confused by this because hello, look around. The latter discussion was about how racism is still around, but in very subtle ways. I just couldn't think of an example off the top of my head.

Today, a frustrated employee in a different department transferred to me this lady who I assumed was old (but actually isn't too much older than my dad). She didn't want to accept that X-Ray image quality on a disc is just as good as on huge, inconvenient, expensive sheets of film. She was trying to get her records from another facility to bring to our hospital and was told that the request her physician put in for was never made. Instead of asking her doc to re-request it, she put the entirety of the blame on that (city) hospital, and then made a really racist remark about the people who work there. I didn't catch the meaning at first because generally people don't say derogatory stuff about brown people TO a brown person these days, so I'd only ever heard that particular turn of phrase on TV. And I certainly never would have heard it in real life if she was talking to me in person.

So it didn't sink in until she added, "And you know what I mean."

I WANTED to say, "No, I don't, you racist beeyatch. Just WTF DO you mean?" But she was already on to the next complaint. And I am a professional. After about 20 minutes of gentle explanation I had helped her with her problems. Unfortunately it usually takes me that long to think of a comeback.

I'm still a little rattled. Is this what people believe deep in their hearts but know not to say? I keep thinking about CC and how people can't necessarily tell what her heritage is, so she hears stuff I wouldn't when I'm out of the room. From people we know. People we thought we knew.

So, yeah, like I told those people, this stuff is out there. Every day. I just hope that people let go of it before my future children have to deal with it. Maybe, if these statistics are foretelling the truth, they won't have to for very long.


I saw that patient's name on the list today, and I made sure I would be in the vicinity when she showed up. In fact, I got myself involved in her situation so she would hear my voice, see my name and also *see* me. She was a meek-looking little woman who snapped up information and held it like a bear trap, not willing to listen to reason. Obviously someone along the like was trying to get her off the phone and said a generic answer (that doesn't apply to her specific case) and she was proclaiming it as law. The lady nearly turned the whole place upside-down with her arguing and inability to accept what four of us (all from different departments) were trying to explain.

And later when I called to make sure the disc situation was straightened out, the girl remembered getting reamed out by this patient a few months ago so she triple-checked that the lady's stuff was correct. Obviously this woman has issues. She told the technologist that the "reason she is the way she is" (unapologetically) is that her daughter-in-law died unexpectedly "because she fell through the cracks" of the healthcare system, so she wants to be sure no one she loves will experience the same thing, including herself. And that is a tragedy. I wholeheartedly agree that patients should take the initiative to understand and speak up about their/their family's care. But at some point, you have to step back and trust that the professionals--who have been highly trained--will do their jobs.

She's coming back to pick up her films tomorrow. Great.


Anonymous said...

It's too bad that being a professional means letting bigots get away with spewing their hate (and I mean this sympathetically, there's a lot of stuff that I have to hold my tongue about at my job too.). That sh*t needs to be called out. People who do that should at least be humiliated into keeping their mouths shut around civilized human beings. I get the sense that people who use bigoted language have gone unchallenged for most of their lives. That's a shame.

Ale said...

back in ukraine when i was in elementary school, i would hear kids make comments about jews. 8 year olds clearly dont actually MEAN it they're just repeating their parents. Well, being jewish and having blond hair and blue eyes, no one was able to tell so I got to hear these things. I would always say that i'm jewish and kids would most of the time start appologizing. the ones that didnt i would just beat(as my dad taught me). the moral of this story is not for you to get violent, but that people who make racist remarks are
a)not educated
b)repeating things they heard others say without knowing what it means
c)usually don't actually KNOW anyone from the race they're insulting
d)most likely not cute themselves so they're tying to feel better by insulting others

you did good by talking her through it gently and professionally, you should have said in the end that you're brown too.

Ale said...

oh... and is it ok that i tell a certain asian girl we both know and love that "smiling asian chicks annoy the crap out of me"??
is that racist and ignorant???? :)

but i say it lovingly! :P

Anonymous said...

So this was a phone conversation? Maybe you have a white phone voice...

cadiz12 said...

I think her attitude toward the brown is the least of her problems, anon1.

Ale, i think a, b, c, and d are all correct. and it's ok to say that. to that particular asian girl--she knows you well enough to understand what you mean.

yes, anon2. the only accent i have is a Midwestern one. unless i'm speaking Hindi. then i have a HUGE midwestern accent.

SupaCoo said...

Ugh, sorry you have to deal with people like that. What an ass.

Guyana-Gyal said...

Here's the sad thing about racism. NO race is exempt from racist behaviour. I live in a multi-cultural society [where not many white folks live] and have seen and heard quite a bit.