My emotional intelligence received a shot of adrenaline to the heart, Mia Wallace style. I was shocked at first, realizing how rude people could be to me. I was just an innocent intern, I had no clue was I was doing, surely they could empathize? The “they” I speak of is no one in the office, they are all downright lovely people. The “they” I speak of are the legislative receptionists, parents at tabling events (yes parents with their kids), and plethoras of other pissed off people.
I remember one instance in particular where my supervisor, Shawn, and I were at a school for a “Kidsfest” event. Along with dozens of other organizations, we were running a table, passing out information, and interacting with the kids. I had just finished sticking a temporary tattoo on the cutest kid, when a woman and her three children came up to our table. I smiled at her, prepared to give her my spiel, when she spurt out “How do I oppose this?” and whisked her hands over our table like she was swatting a fly. I thought maybe she had just misspoken, or that I interpreted her incorrectly, so I began talking to her about PCCY. She then interrupted me, spat out the same question and proceeded to say “my husband and I are both surgeons and we have six kids, you are all pushing it in the same direction and I hate that!” I replied with, “Excuse me, no it’s not” and then she stormed off, her confused children scuttling behind her. What the “it” was I don’t know, I just felt like I was attacked and had to refute whatever she was saying. And I’m fairly positive the woman did not know what the “it” was either, or what our organization was all about.
I stood behind the table, astonished at first, then I shook it off and continued on. Now that I have had time to reflect, I realized the most significant aspects of that interaction were the anger in her voice and how purely idiotic the whole thing was. Who comes to an event with clowns, jugglers, bouncy houses, and tables of non-profits; an event that is literally called “Kidsfest”, to get pissed off and go table to table berating the people sitting behind them. The fact that they would come with their children to do this is so next level that I can’t even begin to articulate how messed up it is. Yes, I remember this moment with some anger. However, I also remember it with some new insight.
I realized that she, a surgeon who spends her days interacting with unconscious bodies, has no idea or grasp on the lifestyles of others or the issues that good, hard-working, Americans face. She couldn’t possibly know about the social injustices that are deeply embedded in our system of education. She can’t understand the level of obstacles a child born into poverty faces, already behind their peers by age one. She doesn’t understand that everyone’s parents aren’t surgeons, and that some children don’t have parents at all. She doesn’t understand the monster that is child care; low income families spend 50% of their salary on childcare, people lose their jobs because of a lack of childcare, and kids lose their lives because of low quality child care. As a white surgeon, she couldn’t possibly understand the struggle a minority single mother has to go through to put her children in care. The largest burden the hateful surgeon bears, is the burden of her own hate.
This woman was so full of hate and anger, but the most striking thing about her was the putrid odor of ignorance, seeping out of her every orifice. It’s scary and disappointing, that someone who is supposed to be smart and honorable, a surgeon, was full of so much ignorance and disregard for others. It is people like this that scare me the most; the ones who refute facts, and who turn a blind eye to the wreck around them. They live in an alternate reality. The information and truth is available; the facts, the reports, and the numbers are there. Yet, there are people who insist on asserting false realities that exclude populations of people, perpetuate social injustice, and feed hate.
I feel a new responsibility after completing this internship. A responsibility to hold up the truth in whatever I do. I will speak up in the face of ignorance and hate.