Do you know this woman?

Edited to add:  One news source reports that this woman’s family has been found so I have removed her picture.

She was hit by a car June 8 when crossing the street at Vallejo Street and Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco.   She is estimated to be in her 70’s or 80’s, is Asian, has brown eyes and grey hair, is about 130 lbs. and 5′ 2″.

If you have any information about her identity, call the hospital’s sheriff’s department at (415) 206-8063 or the Police Department’s anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or send a tip by text message to TIP411.

From Angry Asian Man.

This story really struck a nerve with me, because my grandmother was struck by a vehicle when crossing the street near her home.  My family was frantic with worry when she did not return from her walk.  My parents and aunts and uncles called everywhere they could think of.  They called the police and all the hospitals. 

My grandmother tried repeatedly to tell the hospital personnel her name and phone number but nobody listened to her.  She had excellent receptive English and was considered extremely smart and clever (Year of the Monkey!) but probably had a strong accent.  I can’t remember hearing her speak English, although much later I realized she must have spoken fairly good English considering what she did for a living.

(I think it is a measure of internalized racism that for the longest time, I never realized my grandmother and my great uncle spoke good English.  They simply chose not to when they didn’t have to.  My great uncle spoke to me in English only once, upon the death of my father.  I think he wanted to make sure I understood everything he said.  I remember the shame I felt upon realizing that of course he did speak English.)

Apparently the emergency personnel thought my grandmother was indigent and took her to the county hospital.  Which is a nightmare, in case you’ve never been there.

My grandmother was missing for a week.

It was a nurse at the hospital who finally realized my grandmother could speak English.  A Polish-speaking patient kept crying out in Polish and my grandmother helpfully provided the English translation.  She had picked up Polish while working in a factory with many Polish immigrants.

After that it was a simple matter to get my parents’ telephone number and call.

I never did find out why it took so long to figure out she did speak English.  Or why it took so long to identify her or why the hospital told my parents that she was not there when they called.   I suspect it had to do with language, race and class.  Often English-only language speakers do not even try to understand when somebody with an accent speaks; they sometimes simply assume the language isn’t English.  I’ve often witnessed situations where an English-only speaker is ignoring a second- (or third-) language English speaker when it was obvious to me the person was speaking understandable English.

Often people assume I learned English as a second language from my name or my face.  (Oh, your English is so good!  Oh, you have only the slightest accent!)  Or they assume that I am white when speaking on the telephone.  My parents have no discernible other-language accent when speaking English.  That may have played a part in the hospital not associating them with their Jane Doe.

Anyway, I hope somebody out there knows who this lady is.  I hope her family finds her soon.  And I wish for her a speedy recovery.

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