Today was the first good day I’ve had so far this week. I spent several hours in the ER trying to get my pain under control, but to no avail. The pain was unbelievable, and they tried three different narcotics, including morphine. I was at the point where I had to keep my tooth submerged in ice water at all times in order to get any relief from the pain. I could go about 5 seconds at a time between dousing it. Not long enough to get an x-ray at the dental clinic. They got one, but I was shaking from the pain, and whimpering by the time she finished. I cracked my tooth, and it got infected, and the infection spread to my ear and sinus cavity. It took a while for me to notice the pain, then narrow down it’s location.
By the time I went in, it was too late. But some good came of it. For instance, my fear of going to the ER at the VA is broken now. The nurses and doctors were all kind and professional. I did see the employee that harassed me in the ER in the first place, but just in passing. I didn’t have to sit in any waiting rooms, which helped a lot. The nurse who is in charge of all the nurses in the ER took care of me as soon as I got there, and led me to a private room away from the noise. She’s helped me before, and is astonishingly good at her job. She told me over the phone that if any nurse ever upset me in the ER to let her know and she’d take care of it. (That was when someone who wasn’t one of her nurses harassed me).
It’s startling to me how just a handful of nasty people can make a place that also has far more excellent people feel unsafe for me. Logic would dictate that I would overlook the few, and only count those who are helpful. I don’t like going anywhere when I’m vulnerable, let alone when I know there is at least one person there who despises me for having brown skin. I know now that I’m not alone with this issue. I’ve read about other WOC who have to deal with this problem, too. It’s disgusting. When someone is ill or injured, help them to the best of your ability, regardless of skin color. Otherwise, you’re not a medical professional, you’re a bigot and a fraud. And I will never again cower in the presence of hatred and ignorance. Now that I know it’s not just me, I feel like it’s my duty to protect all WOC who are harassed when trying to seek medical care. So if you pull this shit with me, expect the tongue lashing of your life, followed by a report to the Patient Care representative, which I will CC to the hospital administrator, your immediate supervisor, and several government organizations that can initiate inspections that involve your entire chain of command.
I know exactly how uncomfortable racist white people get when a black woman, who is clearly pissed off, decides to raise her voice and be heard by everyone, while she tells you off for being a hateful bigot. That’s why we do it. We know your sneaky ass only pulls this kind of shit when you have us alone, with no other witnesses. We also know how to download an app that allows us to record everything said while we’re in your care. So think twice before you mistreat us behind closed doors. We’re going to use technology to even the playing field, and expose you hateful motherfuckers for what you really are, in front of those whose opinions matter to you. That’s a promise.
So anyway, before I got all ranty, I noticed it’s National Poetry Day. It got me thinking about Maya Angelou. She was a personal hero of mine from childhood. One of the things my Mom did right as the parent of an interracially adopted child, was to bring to my attention WOC who are amazing, and stand out. She did this throughout my childhood. Not only WOC, but women in general who were great. A lot of them were authors. Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, Zora Neal Hurston, Ntozake Shange, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott, etc. I’m so glad she did this. She had no idea how isolated I felt as the only black kid in my school district. But by doing this, she let me know that my skin color and my gender were obstacles, but not barriers. I wasn’t doomed, even though I sometimes felt like it. My mom was awesome.
TV shows, like Diff’rent Strokes, The Facts of Life, The Cosby Show (ugh, I know), and even certain episodes of Little House on the Prairie with Todd Bridges, and a few others helped me feel less isolated. I believed at first that having brown skin was extremely rare, until I started paying attention to TV. My little sister was the only other black person I ever met until I was 12. I guess it makes it easier for me to see some of the progress we’ve made as a nation regarding race issues. I have memories of incidents that if they happened today, would result in viral shaming. They don’t haunt me as often as an adult as they did when I was a kid. I’m proud of the kids I went to school with, because they were genuinely decent people. Some were assholes in elementary school, but I blame their parents for that. I forgave them because they outgrew it by age 12. They could have made my life a living hell, and they didn’t.
In my eyes, my city is far more diverse than when I was growing up. But the numbers have gone from .1% to 1.4%, so it doesn’t really qualify to be called diverse here. I remember how excited I got when I heard a man speaking fluent Spanish while checking out a customer at Hy-Vee. Now I even see signs in both Spanish and English. When I was a kid, the hispanic population in South Dakota was too low to count. They put it at 0%. It’s possible there were zero hispanic people living in the state at that time. That’s changed. We also have Asians who weren’t adopted by Caucasians now too. When I was a kid, the only Asians I ever saw were also interracially adopted. To me, that didn’t count. Those of us who were adopted as infants by white families have the culture of the families that adopt us. This is our native culture, and the only one we know, until we deliberately learn another.
Please don’t ask a POC about what you assume is their native culture until you’re sure it’s their native culture. Most of the people you meet in America are Americans. That’s the only assumption you can make without offending someone when in America. I don’t know very many people who aren’t Americans. But I love the ones I do know. I have a particular fondness for people who can speak English. And Canadians, because for most of my life, I truly believed being Canadian meant you were a nice person. Now I only believe differently because I took Statistics at uni. I’m still loopy from all the pain medication they pumped into me. I felt giddy with joy today, because no pain, and I’m able to keep food down again. Great reason to feel joyful. I’m off to read.