Or their name? Or their voice? Or, can you?
To start, I need to share this story of how my work day started on Tuesday. As you know I’m a nurse, and I work (part-time) at a surgical center. On Tuesday I was assigned to circulate in one of the OR’s. My very very first case of the day went like this:
(Anesthesiologist brings patient into the room)..
Me (to patient): “Hi, my name is Tami, I’ll be one of the nurses in the room with you today. Can you tell me your first and last name and date of birth?”
Patient: “What race are you?”
Me: “Excuse me?”
Patient: “I said, what race are you?! You’re not American, are you?”
Me: “Yes, yes I am.”
Patient: “Well, you sure don’t look like it!”
Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been in an operating room, but all the OR staff are wearing surgical hats, masks, and scrubs. So, this is what he could see of me:
(oh, and please excuse my wonky eyebrows which need waxing!)
After his accusation of my not being “American,” he then went on to say this:
“You know what the problem is in this country? Overcrowding! They started letting too many people in, and when you get too many people, that’s when you get the fighting!”
I can only assume I am one of the people he was referring to. He never did confirm what “race” he actually thought I was.
Did this bother me? Not really. Why? Because this tirade is just one example on my growing list of such accusations.
Within the past month I also had the scheduler for my MRI ask me my race and when I said “Caucasian,” she said, “You’re not Hispanic or African American?” And this was over the phone, she didn’t even see me! I don’t believe I was speaking in Spanish or Ebonics, but I guess I can’t be certain.
I also had another patient at work look at my name tag and say “What kind of a name is that?” When I said I didn’t understand what she was asking she said, “Is that ethnic, or something?” Now, my name is Tamara (which my sister insists is an African American name), but my nametag says “Tami.”
All of this was comical at first, but now it’s starting to get annoying. However, if I say it’s annoying to friends or co-workers, then they say, “Why, are you racist?” Umm, no. It’s like if you had a baby girl and every time you took her out people asked you if she was a boy, you would probably find it irritating after awhile. It’s not that you have anything against boys, but your daughter isn’t a boy.
I wish I could say I see why people are asking me this, but I just can’t. The most popular response I have received from people who know me on this subject is that maybe I resemble Halle Barry…