Today I was accused of stealing a patient’s $100 bill at work. She claimed that I had fleeced her of her money last week and “unless there is someone else in this clinic who looks like me”, then it was obviously me who could have taken her money under false pretences. Now granted, we did have a consultation last week and I organised a surgical excision which would have had an out of pocket cost compared to her usual bulk billed consults. However as all of us should know, doctors never handle money as that is what reception is for, there is no way I would have processed payment for an anticipated procedure. Trying to highlight this flaw in her thinking just led to more venomous attacks of me and going on about how unless someone “like me”, and when asked to elaborate on what she meant, she reported “black people like me”, I could be the only person who took her money.
Not only was this hurtful as I had looked after this patient for a year now through challenging times with her family, it was sadly not the first time I have had racist insults hurled in my face by members of our community. I have been insulted in the presence of my then 3-year-old son, and informed that the reason we are brown is because we are the s*#t of the society whilst on a train home from a city outing.
Today however was different and to me sadder as I realised that people who have never experienced racism are quick to make excuses for racist behaviour. The trending ones for today was “she is old, she might have dementia” as if getting old and maybe having dementia have RACISM as a side effect. Excuses for the guy on the train was “maybe he was drunk, maybe he was high” again as if drugs and alcohol should have RACISM as a listed side effect. Now, racism is not a side effect of any of the above or any other reasons people might excuse. You are racist and for whatever reasons you might become disinhibited enough to actually spill your vile ideas.
When someone is being subjected to such, I would advise that if you are someone who has witnessed such behaviour- call it out for what it is, listen to the distress of the person who has been vilified and say, “I am sorry you have had to endure this today”. It is the equivalent of being quiet when breaking bad news etc when the less you speak actually speaks volumes. There is no need to try and pretend people were not trying to be racist when they are or worse excusing their behaviour.
I admit, I am guilty of not calling out such behaviour because I actually hate to bring up the so-called race card and I am really not confrontational. Today, the whole experience was surreal, as if someone was going to come out of the woodworks and say “smile, you are on candid camera” or living through Jodi Picoults book of Small Great Things where an African American nurse was falsely accused of killing a child of a Caucasian couple. I think the realisation of what happened, the response of my boss and practice manager to the incident has actually just dawned on me and actually made me upset and very angry. I thought I would channel these feelings and educate and hopefully look forward to going to work tomorrow and a future where my chocolate flavoured son won’t have to deal with this as his norm.
Thanks for reading till the end, as I try and calm down and come up with a plan of what to do about this tommorow.