Why “Aw” Responses are Unacceptable | On Racism in the Workplace

I’ve met up with a few friendquaintances from the past just cause, why not?  Most of my high school phase left me with friendquaintances, and I felt I never had the chance to properly get to know people and who they really were, although I had a vague idea by the way they treated me or handled my extenuating circumstances… I used to think they were just all jerks, but then the more forgiving part of me knew it was sometimes due more to immaturity and ignorance.  To be honest,  I wasn’t sure if it was due more to my willingness to be as spontaneous as I could be when possible, or whether it was my insecurities that questioned why people would ask to meet up out of the blue when they had never bothered to get to know me before.  Sometimes, my inklings were correct and I felt there were ulterior motives, but who really knows at the end of the day.  My paranoia has I suppose, in many ways been both a blessing and a hindrance to what could’ve been.

That said, some people, four years later, may still not have had the chance to learn how to handle with respect more dark matters.  When one hears of the passing of someone’s father or mother, for example, one automatically says “I’m sorry.”  I always feel awkward getting those words out of my mouth, because it feels so utterly futile in what pain they must be going through, but it’s the least I can offer in the moment.  But at least it’s a consistent fallback to what people say to display their empathy.

The other day, I met up with a friendquaintance who asked me to chill and catch up, and I thought why not.  Suddenly, out of the blue from small conversation of “What have you been up to,” he followed up with, “Weren’t you always sick or something?  What is that?” It caught me off guard because I hadn’t realized he was one of the people who were even vaguely aware of what I had gone through back then, and I awkwardly tried to give an elevator explanation of what I had.  In response, he stared at me and gave me a pouty face.  How the fuck was I supposed to answer a pouty face?

Let me go on a momentary rant here, and tell you why I get so fired up by people’s responses sometimes.  Let’s put aside for a couple minutes the goal to forgive, and understanding that they don’t know shit about your life so you have to let it go.  When someone tries to explain to you an illness or a condition that wreaks havoc in their lives on a daily basis, from the minuscule to the grander schemes in life, it takes bravery just to try to bother telling you about it.  If someone asks you for some assistance sometimes as simple as a lack of judgment when they use the elevator or ask you to wait with them, you do it.  People of chronic conditions in society are marginalized, disregarded, and misunderstood just as people of color or ethnicity or gender are.  At least have the decency to study or look up on situations that you yourself don’t experience so that you don’t go spouting ignorant things.  So the next time you happen to interact with someone who has an illness or struggle with issues you don’t have, particularly ones you can’t see, don’t go pitying them, particularly slapping them in the face with an “Aww,” or saying something like “At least you don’t live in a third world country.”

Listen, if someone blind were trying to explain to you what they deal with as a blind man, would you respond to that with any of this?  Then why is it so difficult to apply that to other varying conditions as well?  

Do:  Ask them more questions to understand if they seem willing, or just be there for them and be chill about it without making them feel like they owe you a favor or that it’s a big deal.  They are people, just like you.  We are people, just like you.

I think part of me is a quiet Asian girl, and that’s okay that that is part of my personality and identity.  But it’s really frustrating when people seem to pigeonhole you into expecting you to act a certain way, submissively, for example, when you aren’t meant to just roll over for them.


This leads to my second point of discussion, and I wanted to share this story my best friend told me today about racism in her workplace.  Besides tolerating her co-workers’ often inappropriate comments that are borderline, or far past borderline sexist, she has a double whammy in which she also has to endure racist comments, particularly from white co-workers.  Today, she told me that her and another co-worker were talking to one of the company’s managers,  trying to remember what some Asian guy’s name was that they had met.  When they were at a loss, the manager actually said,  “Well, maybe it was something like Ching Chong Ding Dong eh?”  When my friend failed to laugh, he pressed on,”Well, I think it’s hilarious.”  My friend finally snapped and said, “I think you should leave before you make a bigger fool of yourself.”  Apparently, he just left after she said that.  Zero tolerance for that kind of behavior is right, even if it means standing up to someone of a greater authority than you, but I don’t know if I’d have the cajones to do it.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s