Monday, February 05, 2007

So, how well do you know yourself?

I've been due for a pap smear for a while, and I finally got one today. A lot of people here have had bad experiences with their OBGYN's, so it was pretty rare and encouraging to have one actually recommended. My new OBGYN is Dr. Smith.

I knew from the source that recommended him that this highly recommended doctor was a "he" which generally isn't a big deal. Well, maybe it is. I'd never had a male OBGYN before. But I had a while to process that in my head, and my mom pointed out that she never had a female OBGYN until she was pregnant with my little sister. So lots of people go to male OBGYN's, it must be okay.

Then just last night when I mentioned to someone I had this appointment coming up, I was warned that Dr. Smith is "a big black guy".... as a sort of warning.... like "Just so you have a heads up and don't freak out when you see him..." That got me worried. If I had gone in there without knowing what he looked like, would it have made me uncomfortable when I first saw him?

(You have to cut me some slack here, I'm a white girl from Utah and my exposure to non-white Utahns has been pretty pathetically minimal prior to moving to PA)
In my head I know that race doesn't matter one bit, but in real life what will my first impressions and gut reactions be? Will I be ashamed of them?

In Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, the fact that many people who are by no means racist in practice and in their patterns of behavior frequently still have a strong racist pattern when they're tested on their first impressions or subconscious associations.

I still don't know what I'm like that way, I had time to stew over it in my brain so every word and facial expression was very deliberate today. I may have even caught the doctor off-guard with my precalculated ease.

And I'm happy to say that Dr. Smith is marvelous as a doctor. Sensitive listening type of doctor... dream come true.

And living where I do I'll likely have many opportunities to confront and hopefully overcome any racist demons that may be lurking inside of me.
If they're even there at all...


--jeff * said...

the opening line of your post kind of caught me off guard, and so i guess i was surprised with the philosophical ponderings in closing.
i am glad to hear that things went well, and i appreciate the questions raised in the end.

i'm sure this comment will be followed by several young mothers empathetically expressing similar stories.

me, i've said all i can say.

Vanessa and Rebecca said...

It was interesting and enlightening to read your post. Recently we had dinner with some friends. While at dinner the subject of lower income housing came up. Both of our families are in medical school so we are both very concerned about pricing and cost of living here. Anyway the other girl mentioned how she was glad of the place they got because there weren't as many "latinos" as other places. This totally shocked me. I'm hispanic. I turned to her and asked "what's wrong with Latinos?" She looked at me and said "Oh nothing it's just well, you know." I was floored. I had never come into direct racism before and here it was from someone who I considered a friend. I said "You do know I'm Mexican don't you." The rest of the evening followed in agonizing slow motion like sequence. Her and her husband explaining that they thought I was Spanish from Spain (which I am too, but my mother is mexican) and how they were "ok with those types of people because well, his cousin had adopted some from Guatemala". If you have to justify to yourself that you are ok with something, you are not ok with it. She has yet to say hi to me since then. I'm glad you took the time to actually analyze how well you know yourself because this "friend" is probably just mortified to find her racism true and apparant but to realize she was racist in the presence of someone who called her on it and a "friend" to boot. Well uncomfortable. Thanks for evaluating yourself and making an effort, it actually does mean a lot to someone who isn't white and from Utah (although I must say I am pretty darn white looking).

PS for those people raised in Utah, I am NOT a latino. I am hispanic. The corrolation would be not wanting to call an African American "black" so you call them "colored" instead. Same sort of offense comes out of calling me a latino. Maybe others are different but latino constitutes everyone of latin decent meaning Italy, Spain, France. Hispanic are those from Central, South America. When you call someone Latino it's just offensive because, hard to explain, it just is. I can't explain it. Just don't do it. Common Utah Mistake. FYI

tracy m said...

Wow. Thanks for sharing. Nestle- you too. Wow. ugh.

hairyshoefairy said...

That's something to consider, Em. I'm glad you posted your thoughts.

Thanks, Nes. I'd always wondered if there was a difference between the two. We don't live by many Hispanics, but more than half of dh's class is Asian. Once when we were hanging out with one of his friends from school and his girlfriend (both Asian), they said a similar thing about being called Oriental instead of Asian. I thought that was interesting cuz my Dad served a mission in Japan over 20 years ago and I guess back then that was the term used, but now it's considered somewhat derogatory so they both prefer "Asian." I don't know if that's universal, but it seems to be a consensus among everyone we know here.

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