Sunday, February 14, 2010

discrimination

Through extensive traveling in central and south America, I have often experienced the feeling of being the minority. I'm considered a blond in Chile and stick out like a sore thumb, I've had vendors insist on communicating with me in their very poor broken English because they couldn't fathom my ability to speak Spanish, and I have felt the attention of a pale skinned young woman in a Latino community.

However the time in my life that has stuck with me the most as being treated differently or with less respect occurred on my beloved UNI campus. I am a resident assistant on campus, and hold this title with pride. Part of our job includes being health aids, so I am and have been certified in health aid and CPR for 3 years. I am trained to respond to medical emergencies in a variety of settings.

One day I was studying in the tables upstairs in Maucker Union when I noticed strange behavior from a woman in the CME. She did not appear responsive, and as someone tapped on her shoulder I knew medical help was needed. I tried to come to the aid of this worker, who clearly did not have training and did not know what to do. Quickly a group of adults appeared, called 911 and began to try to figure out what to do with this woman. I tried repeatedly to tell them the appropriate steps to care for her and place her to get blood pumping but everyone was in a panic and ushered me out saying that "the adults have it under control" and "we don't need to create a spectacle".

I was infuriated that they would not listen to me due to their conception that as a youth I could not possibly know how to help, even though I had repeatedly told them I was certified. I was kept at bay outside of the office space until paramedics arrived and immediately wrapped her in a blanket, and had her lay down on the couch, just as I had been trying to direct the adults to do.

Luckily the situation was not dangerously serious, and the medics were able to help her. However that day I felt completely undervalued as a young person and felt a great deal of indignation and anger that they had incorrectly judged me. This was discrimination based on age, and has not been ongoing in my life, nor is it the harshest example I have heard of, but it provoked the upset emotions of discrimination that are vivid to me to this day.

6 comments:

  1. Your stories were very interesting to read through. I think there's so many different forms of discrimination that it makes it very easy for a person to feel discriminated against in any setting. This has definitely made me more self-conscious on the topic.

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  2. Wow, that's just ridiculous that they wouldn't let you help! The very idea that a college student could somehow know CPR on a college campus, especially if it is necessary for your position as an R.A., should not have been foreign to the others in the Union. It's unfortunate that part of the human condition is our tendency to resort to panic in critical situations. Good work keeping your head and being ready to help, though - you should be proud of your composure!

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  3. It's fascinating to me that you experienced a kind of reverse discrimination when you were in Central America. Too much overt attention can be discriminatory too - especially if you speak fluent Spanish, but weren't addressed or respected as if you could. I experienced something like that a couple of times when I've traveled, although not in a some what good manner as it seems you experienced. When I went to Italy I did not speak Italian, but I also didn't assume that everyone spoke English. I had a book on Italian and attempted to say a few words as a sign of goodwill and gesture. I was in no way rude or overbearing, but when it was known that I was American I was treated differently. The response that I most often received was "Ugh, American - I have no time for you," and then either rudely brushed aside or quickly seen to and done. This was the same in France too. It's funny all of the ways and places that you can encounter discrimination.

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  4. I've been shopping in Colombia and conversing IN SPANISH with my husband and have had store owners tell my husband in Spanish to tell me that it is a good product. "Dile a la gringa que es una buena cartera...de cuero bueno!" If I'm not interested in buying something, telling me that it's good isn't going to change that- otherwise American marketing wouldn't have to work so hard.

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  5. I totally related to this post. I have experienced the discrimination of young age or percieved inexperience when applying for jobs. It seems that many employers think you have to be in your later twentys to have experienced enough in the world and have a major maturity. I have also experienced discrimination because of the way I look. Sometimes people are intimidated based on the way you look and like to immediatly think of you as shallow or less serious than others. This is something we will always have to prove to many "older" adults until they feel we've earned our place.

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