I wanted to write this post for the longest time but was only halfway done. I have to admit that I was not willing to post this or maybe did not have the courage to post it earlier. But I think it will be good for my own healing to get it out of my mind and my computer.
An experience I had with a past client of mine. This is an example of privilege that may or may or may not have been obvious to that person who I was interviewing with or so I thought. When I first met the family here is how the conversation started. One of the question asked during the interview that I had to answer as a postpartum doula was this, ” so, what brings you to this narcissistic country of ours? ” I was so shocked by that question that I had to gather myself and stop for a few minutes to think about what I should say.
I smiled, and told him that this country has given me a lot and I don’t for one minute think that USA is a narcissistic country. I started thinking to myself that how did he conclude that I was not a citizen of this country ? Which by the way I have been for some time now.
Another incident that happened after a few days with the same person was when I was working in their home doing my job. He walks up to me and says, “Hey Sejal, here, (handing me his cellphone) say hi to Mr. XYZ. I am shocked again, so I say but I don’t know Mr. XYZ. He says just say hi, so I did and I thought it would end there. In retrospect I felt that I should have said no altogether but just to be nice I said hello.
After I said hi to the guy on the other end, the person who handed me the phone says to me, ” NO! NO! NO! NO! say it in a thick and heavy Indian accent !” GASP ! At this point I am almost ready to walk out of their house, but I didn’t. Why did I choose to stay ? I thought of his partner and baby, who needed my help. I eventually did quit, but with a guilt that I could not continue to help this family. Looking back, I know I made the right choice.
The takeaway for me from this experience was that, no matter how hard I tried, to that person I would be an outsider or someone lesser. I may get a lot of negative or positive responses from anyone who reads this, but that is not why I am writing this. I am writing this because I want to remind myself and everyone around me that we have to keep having these discussions even though we are not the most comfortable with it.
If we want to support people from other cultures, communities or non-traditional families, we have to meet them and get to know them by asking them questions and remind ourselves repeatedly that we are not assuming anything about their culture and discriminating even unknowingly. America was a country made by immigrants and will remain so.
Let us make our community and its policies conducive to those who feel like they are treated different because they may not be from the same social, economic or cultural background. If we act together, the change will heal the trauma of disparities, indifference and discrimination and make everyone’s life better.
It still intimidates me to walk in a roomful of people from a community or a setting I do not know or belong to. But I make myself go in there and talk to them. Sometimes I feel heard and end up making lifelong friends and sometimes I feel like a fool. When I am not aware and awake to what is happening around me, I cannot change myself and I stop learning.
I was listening to an interview on the radio and Matthew Sanford was speaking. He talked about how the nurses who worked with him after a car accident had literally saved his life. He came from a privileged family and his mother had access to resources to get him the best care possible but had to struggle to get the hospital to release him for getting a second opinion which was literally the second chance at life for him.
Matthew said one thing in his interview that I will remember for as long as I live, and that is “Trauma does not just happen to one person, it happens to a family and a community.”
It leaves me to wonder why are we tolerating so much violence against our own kind, be it hispanic, gay, african american or any other color, gender or lifestyle. Are we perpetrating trauma every single day ? Are we making it seem normal that people are being shot at and yelled at and all the wrongs that happen against them are part of day to day life now.
We must stop regularizing trauma.