This is from my journal about an experience I had when I was in the hospital ICU two years ago.
When I was in the hospital, I came in contact with a whole lot of people… way too many and I was beginning to feel “peopled” out.
But two made an impact on me…Maria and Elizabeth. Both were on the housekeeping staff of the hospital. I met Maria first and as her name might suggest, she is Hispanic. I was watching TV when she came on, watching the news about El Paso shooting. She shook her head and I could see her eyes welling up with tears. I said “this kind of thing shouldn’t be happening. Here or anywhere.” She then told me her life story.
She immigrated from Mexico about 25 years ago, legally (which was much easier then than it is now), and was sponsored by two American families, one in Poulsbo and one in Puyallup. They helped her to learn English and get the skills she needed to succeed. She isn’t an American citizen yet but she is a legal immigrant and still she is concerned with what is going on in this country against people who are Hispanic and Latino. She had one patient just recently hiss at her that she, Maria, should be sent back where she came from. She looked him square in the eye and told him that maybe he should be sent back where HE came from.
After I was moved to another floor, I met Elizabeth. Again, I was watching the news on TV when she came in to clean. She looked up to the TV and shook her head. I thought it was in empathy but found out it was anything but. She walked into my bathroom mumbling something about how “they have no right to be here in the first place…” and how “she had to put up with them all the time she lived in Forks and she knew all about who they were.” Then she said something that kind of surprised me.
“I have no prejudice against THE MEXICANS!!”
That said everything to me. Whenever you have to say you are not a racist that clearly indicates that you are. When you objectify an entire culture by a label like that, not only are you a racist, but you are an ignorant one at that. She clearly was so ignorant to call countries south of the border as “Mexican” and doesn’t seem to acknowledge and understand there other countries like Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama and Honduras. Did this woman just not go to school?
I’m quite sure the staff has been cautioned to not discuss subjects like religion and politics, but for these two women, with hugely wide viewpoints, the events that were happening were so much more than either one could handle.
I wanted to ask Elizabeth how she would have felt to lumped into an objective category such as “THE poor, old white ladies” which attempts to take away all of your humanity. But at that point, I no longer wanted to acknowledge her presence and even questioned her own humanity considering her attitude.