Unless we’re a danger

So I went to the old folks’ home to visit, because one of my white relatives is being moved to intermediate care. This is a different wing of the complex. I had just talked to another relative, so I knew the general direction to walk. There was a reception desk along the way, so I stopped there to ask a question.

The white woman sitting there didn’t look up at me. And then the phone rang, so she answered the phone. She then engaged in a lengthy telephone conversation, never once glancing up. I knew she was intent on ignoring me when she said, “No, I have the e-mail right here,” called up her e-mail program on the computer and began reading aloud the contents of the e-mail. It was very obvious that she was talking with a work colleague.

So I walked away.

It is apparently not acceptable for a person of color to walk away from a white person, although it is perfectly acceptable for a white person to ignore a person of color for an extended period of time.

Because she freaked.

She dropped the phone on her desk with a loud clunk and bolted to her feet, yelling, “Where are you going?” I said that I was visiting a resident. She was visibly agitated and said that I had to sign in first. But I noticed that when I approached the desk she backed away and stood out of reach behind her chair.

Next time I’m going to just keep walking.

16 thoughts on “Unless we’re a danger

  1. Well hell, not only are you a person of color, but you’re also an adoptee, right? Sure, one can’t tell the latter by appearance alone – but if that white lady HAD known, she’d probably have trained the fire extinguisher on you, you fellow psycho-heathen child.

  2. Who knows what might have happened if you kept walking – she would probably have called security and it might have gotten uglier. :( I’m sorry.

  3. She sounds like a sh*thead control freak, hey didn’t we just talk about white and control, goes together like soup and sandwich.

  4. hmm, I think if I were at a desk designed to provide assistance for visitors I’d just talk over her phone conversation until she heard me and acknowledged me. I’m sure if you never tried to walk away or speak up she’d still be on the phone.

  5. @overseaschinese: I’m not. I admit adoption was never an issue I gave much thought to one way or the other, until I started reading this blog and a few others. There’s been a lot of food for thought here and elsewhere.

    @js718: I second your question! :)

  6. I’m a half-adopted – my dad adopted me and sis when I was very young. Not transracial/international, and I never really had to deal with any difficulties, questions, or issues, so I claim no deeper understanding of any of the issues.

  7. My husband’s mom is Korean, and his dad is white. I am Vietnamese. We freak people out with our “American” last name since we just look like an Asian couple. We went to visit his paternal grandmother at her nursing home. His aunt (dad’s sister) dropped us off as she parked the car. We walked up to the desk toward a black receptionist, smiled, and politely asked to see Ms. Merrilee Collier.

    Receptionist: I’m sorry, we don’t have anyone by that name (looking confused and flipping through paperwork). What was the name?
    Husband: Oh, Ms. Merri-Lee Col-lier (he said slowly, just in case the lady didn’t hear the first time).
    Receptionist: (continuing to dig through paperwork as if she was really looking for “Collier”) Uhm….hmmm….I don’t think we have anyone here by that name.
    Husband: I know she’s here, my aunt comes here all the time. Ms. Merri-Lee Col-lier, C-O-L-L-I-E-R…Collier?

    While he continues to spell it out two more times, I already know why she can’t “find” our grandmother. She’s probably looking for “Chen” or something. All the patients in the nursing home were white in this nice little Virginia town; the only Asians were the nursing staff (we met them later). After becoming frustrated with the clerk, his aunt came to save us. She whisked in from the cold snow, with my husband exclaiming, “Oh, there’s my aunt!”

    Since our aunt is a regular, the receptionish immediately said, “OHHHH!!! COLLIER!”

    Yes. That’s how we said it too. =)

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