race

I was standing in the cafeteria of a major academic medical center wearing shirt, tie, and the same white coat that all my medical school classmates wear (with stethoscope). An older white lady tapped me on the shoulder and asked “Excuse me do you work here? I’m trying to find the soups…” and even once I fully turned around it never occurred to her that I am medical student, not a cook.
I am a black male medical student in a major Northeast academic medical center.

I logged into Facebook and saw the memes sprawling all over my feed equating the Boston bombings to terrorists, Muslims, and immigrants. I messaged them and engaged in dialogue validating their frustration but expressing how offended I felt and how perpetuating Islamaphobia only results in more violence, especially towards people who look “Middle Eastern”. One person took it down and apologized… another talked with me for a while and ended by saying “don’t get so offended.”

I’m from Ocala, FL and living in Boston. I just called my local newspaper in Florida to ask how they were being sensitive to anti-Islamic sentiment in their reporting of the Boston Incident… they accused me of being racist against southern Christians.

I felt hurt, confused, saddened. Wish people didn’t feel the need to defend and were able to listen. Wished people understood racism in its contextual nature, recognizing that stereotyping and feeling violence because of your group membership are different. Made me feel good for addressing it, but potentially hypocritical for not just understanding that people can’t be blamed for what they haven’t had the chance to learn and dissect.

Upon having seen coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing, my mother, who is white, states, “Middle Easterns… always killing everybody.” I’m Middle Eastern, early 20s, and her son. My little sisters, who are South Asian were also in the same room, and they heard that. I felt very angry, unsafe, disappointed.

Today at work, a guest was looking at the Boston Marathon newsfeed we had playing and said, “We should bomb them all! Kill them all! It’s all they understand!” I asked who, exactly, he intended to slaughter, and why. “They don’t understand anything else. My son’s in Iraq.” I’m sorry? But, that has nothing to do with the bombings! Confronted him on civil liberties and the right to trial, innocent until proven guilty. “Oh that’s hippie crap.” What?

Sitting in a library at school, I hear an African American student laughing a little loudly… followed by a white student saying, “Yo Shaq, shut up!”

Was biking through town when two women yelled “Konichiwa!” at me…

I’m Vietnamese. And I was born in California.

(Also, where’s the female solidarity?)

H&R Block employee when my best friend (who’s black) and I went to get our taxes done together: “Employed?”
Me: “Yes.”
H&R: “Any children?”
Me: “No.”
H&R, turns to my friend: “Okay, and you. Employed?”
Him: “Yes.”
H&R: “Any children?”
Him: “No.”
H&R: “Are you sure?”
Him: “Um…”
H&R: “Just checking.”
Him: “Yes, I’m sure.”

While on my bicycle waiting for the light to turn green, a couple of guys on the corner were hissing at me asking for my number. I ignored them. Then one of them said “she’s acting like she’s white.” I later phoned a good friend (also African American) to tell her the story and my disappointment. She said “you act like a white person, the way you dress, the way you talk, If I didn’t know you and heard you over the phone I’d think you were white.”

I followed up with “I’m sorry, what does a white person sound like vs. other people?” She said “you speak all proper, you don’t talk or do things black girls do. I can’t say it no other way than that so you can’t be mad about it if someone calls you white.”

“My friend said I was totally black because I drink kool aid and eat watermelon all the time!”

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