Food for Thought by Sheryl Contreras

I want to share an experience that I had yesterday. It's food for thought; take what you can from it:

I had my first appointment with a new Rheumatologist, which included some blood work. The phlebotomist was a very nice woman, and she was Hispanic. As she started to draw my blood, she began making conversation. (She had to draw more than a dozen vials, so she was kind enough to distract me). She asked if I was Hispanic, so I told her that Contreras is my married name; my husband is Mexican. She jokingly replied, "So you're with us then; not Trump". As you can imagine, I assured her I was far from being "with Trump". She seemed relieved.

We started talking about how different things are now. Specifically, the openness with which people are expressing their bias and, in some cases, outright hatred. As if they can finally be their true selves.

She recounted a recent interaction she had with another patient. He was a middle-aged white man, who was very vocal about his disdain for Mexicans. MNF (my new friend) told him that since he disliked Mexicans so much, she didn't think she should draw his blood. He made some rude comment about her going back to where she came from, to which she replied, "I was not born here, but I am now a U.S. citizen - just like you". He ranted a little longer, making a few more ignorant comments, then promised to contact her supervisor. (Clearly, that went nowhere).

Another patient asked why MNF had the television in that room set to a Spanish channel. "This is America, and we speak English". She explained to him that they don't have cable, and this is the only channel that comes through clearly without an antenna. "If you'd like to buy me an antenna, I'll gladly tune in to an English-speaking channel", she quipped.

Our conversation then veered to her grandchildren, who speak three languages: English, Spanish, and German (their maternal grandparents are German). Her grandchildren, she said, have green eyes and fair skin. This is not just from their mother's side, as MNF has family who are from Spain. Her grandmother (?) had fair skin and blue eyes. This led to her final story, which had her beaming with pride.

MNF had recently been out shopping with two of her grandchildren. As they were waiting in the checkout line, an older white woman in line behind them said this to her: "They are beautiful children; you must be their nanny". Before MNF could respond, her 8-year-old granddaughter quickly stepped in. "Listen, lady. This is my grandma, and I love her. You think just because her skin is a different color that she must be my nanny, but she's not! She is my grandma, and I am so so proud of her. She is the best grandma in the whole world". (I know, right?!)

MNF placed a bandage on my arm, then walked me to the lobby so I could wait to have my x-rays done. "I just brewed some fresh coffee. It's early; I'll bring it out for you". We smiled and exchanged our goodbyes.

Our entire interaction probably lasted 20 minutes, but it stuck with me.

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