So, I went to the doctor on Friday after finally talking myself into it. I don’t hate going to the doctor like some people but it was such a nice day that I wanted to get out and enjoy it. I wasn’t prepared for what was about to happen…
From the moment I stepped in the doctor’s office the staff started treating me like I just arrived from another country. First, there was the receptionist who spoke to me in slow English (complete with the gestures.) It never seemed to occur to her that I was speaking to her in clear English- no accent. (Okay, maybe a Caribbean lilt on certain words). The same thing happened when I sat down with the nurse who takes your weight, blood pressure etc. *sigh* Maybe because it was such a beautiful day I told myself I’d let it slide. Nothing was going to interrupt my good mood.
But here is the ultimate incident: I was having a conversation with the doctor about my health and lifestyle. She asked my age. I told her. Then she busts out and asks, “Is that your known age?” HUH? With a look of confusion on my face I said, “I don’t understand what you mean.” Apparently, some people from Somalia do not know their given age, they can only estimate it. According to the doctor, they may have been born in a rural area and there are no birth certificates or birth dates recorded for people.
If you know me and then you know how irritated I am with people assuming my ethnicity based on me wearing the hijab. I told her I am not Somali or whatever else she had in mind. You’d think that would be it, case closed. *sigh* She kept pushing though. She wanted to know where my family was from then. I was thinking, what does this have to do with my health? I politely told her I am African-American (the Jamaican heritage would’ve really confused the situation, lol.) She says, “Ohhhh, so you’re a Minnesotan then.” Again, I could not let that one go. I told her I am a Chicagoan. Do you know what she said? “Oh, you’re an immigrant from Chicago!” UGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! When I told my mother the story she said I should’ve told the doctor that my people were “reluctant immigrants” and when the doctor asked what I meant by that I should’ve told her that my people were brought here in chains from Africa and forced to work on plantations. (You wonder where I get my sassiness from).
Seriously, this shhh has got to stop!!! People- professionals in a medical setting- cannot go around making assumptions about others based on the way they look or how they’re dressed. I don’t care if most of the women who have on headscarves like me are from Somalia. What’s so wrong with asking before making an assumption? That is all I want. Ask first, don’t assume. If you are reading this and thinking, what’s so wrong with a couple people assuming you’re from another country? Why are you so angry about it? It’s not that big of a deal. I am at my wits end because this happens to me E-V-E-R-Y S-I-N-G-L-E D-A-Y. Maybe it wouldn’t be so annoying and so very frustrating if people weren’t certain about it. To me, their assumption is reflective of a reductionist, binary type of thinking that seeks to fit complicated human beings into neat categories; in this case, Muslim= Somali (since they are the majority Muslim population in the Twin Cities.) If someone is Muslim but not Somali then the next question is usually, well, how can you be Muslim? UGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!