Thursday, February 25, 2010

Warning: extremely offensive, disturbing story. And for once, I'm not kidding. (Language and situational caution, too)

I work with a triad of jerks. All are members of that traditionally oppressed and demoralized class, the middle-class white male. All vote so far to the right of the Republican party that they're practically standing on *my* left (which is saying something), and none of them have any problems being bigots in public.

After hearing talk about "Indians smell funny, drive badly, and are taking all our jobs" and "Mexicans don't come here to work, those welfare-cheating bastards" and having to deal with some misogynistic crap that was directed at me specifically, I thought things had calmed down.

(Incidentally, my Beloved Sister's Husband, who is from India, responded to the "taking all our jobs" comment with "Yep! And we're taking all your women, too!" Which is why we love him.)

It's been a quiet week at Sunnydale. Nobody was showing me pictures of redheaded models in positions that suggested that they'd been brutalized and pointing out that the model, like me, is a redhead. Nobody was talking particularly offensive stuff about whether the White House was still, you know, white, har de har de har. Nobody told one single rape joke. I relaxed.

Bad idea.

Today one of the members of the Oppressed Minority showed me some of the funny, funny pictures on his iPhone. Most of 'em were of the Failblog variety--cars halfway off of docks ("Women drivers, har de har de har!") and cows in trees.

The last one he showed me was of a noose hanging in front of a hand-lettered sign that read "NIGGER SWING SET." (Yes, I used That Word. On purpose. Because the whole episode still feels like a kick in the gut.)

I'll give you a moment to get your jaw up off the floor.

Of all the offensive, brutally racist, entirely-inappropriate-for-any-situation things I've ever seen, this was right up there in the top, oh, one. I'm sure I've seen something worse, or heard something worse, but I can't call it to mind right at the moment*.

It shocked me so much that the anticipatory polite smile I was wearing for the next visual "joke" froze on my face for a moment before my jaw dropped (that's a weird feeling, by the way) and I said, rapidly, "Oh, no. No, no. That's not funny at all. What the hell. NO."

Because, really: What The Fuck Is Wrong With You, That This Is Funny?

I live in Texas. Our last lynching was in 1930, in a city called Sherman, up near the Oklahoma border. Well, our last "official" lynching--there have been plenty of people murdered in the years since by being, for instance, dragged behind trucks (remember that one?).

Our last lynching was well within the memory of a lot of the people that I work with on a daily basis. It was five years before my father was born. That puts it well inside my personal limit for "immediate experience". Yet you think that a picture of a noose combined with a racial slur and a reference to the murder of 551 black men (that's Texas' count) is funny.

This brings up two problems for me, one micro, one macro:

As I told my friend The Hurricane not too long ago, I'm not interested in changing these guys' hearts and minds--that's beyond me. All I want to do is to get them to shut the fuck up with their racist, misogynistic bullshit at work. There's only so much fighting one person can do against a cadre of ignorant people, and frankly, I'll call it out when I see it, but don't expect miracles.

If one of them does something jackholed, I can fight that one thing. I can resist, on a teeny-tiny scale, the sort of crap that they spew. After all, eventually this assignment will end and I'll be on the opposite side of the clock from them. Until then, it's worth a little discomfort to get them not to be threatening and horrible at work.

But the macro side of that problem is what disturbs me. These are three guys who are incredibly, incredibly privileged by virtue of being white, male, and middle-class.

They don't see that privilege, but again, unexamined privilege (though it drives me nuts) is a larger problem than I can solve in my one-woman consciousness-raising efforts.

What bugs me is the ignorance.

I'm sure they wouldn't hesitate to help a person trapped in a burning car, regardless of that person's race. I've never seen any of them refuse an assignment based on the race, sex, or sexual orientation of a patient. They treat the black, Indian, and Hispanic folks we work with with as much respect as they treat me (yeah, I know). Yet they have this worldview that, I don't know, the only good Person-O'-Color is the POC I work with, or something. The rest of those brown people are no-good, thieving, border-busting scumbags, present company excepted.

And it makes me wonder what they *really* think. If you're enough of a bigot to think a lynching joke is hi-larious, how do you *really* see all these people you're working with?

Again, as long as they don't shove it in my face, or think that they can intimidate me by making thumbfingered references to violence against women, minorities, and liberals, I'm cool with calling out the bullshit one incident at a time.

In the bigger view, though, it makes me feel like standing with my back against a wall for the entirety of the shift, just because I don't know what these dudes are going to throw out next.

It also makes me want to cry out of frustration, because some people are just so stupid.

*** *** *** *** ***

*On second thought, I don't remember anything that's worse than that funny ho ho de har de har sign. I would continue to wrack my brain for something more awful, but honestly? I'm nauseated enough as it is.


Maha said...

*jawdrop* I'm so disgusted and furious that I can't even come up with a coherent response. That's nothing short of revolting.

Jo said...

Maha: "revolting" is exactly the word I was wanting.

Right now, twelve hours after the fact, I'm torn between simply putting my head down on my keyboard and sobbing, or marching into the manager's office and saying things like "hostile work environment" and "liability issues".

Or just, you know, knocking some heads together.

Anonymous said...

What you described is illegal. You need to report it immediately to your managers. Why are you conflicted about doing that?

Halie said...

Am I naive to ask why you don't go to your manager? What you experienced is beyond anything that should ever be tolerated at any sort of workplace, much less a hospital!!! You owe it to your patients (and yourself) to get that terrible energy out of there!

An Open Heart said...

Heinous comes to mind.....I would encourage managerial action, there may be someone who is not as confident or strong as you are who is "assaulted" with the same behavior and can't stand up for themselves. It doesn't matter how 'heroic' the jerks (I'd like to call them much worse, but will not lower myself to their level) might be in an emergency situtaion, who they are is who they are in their everyday life. Their behavior is termination worthy.
(you could totally set them up by laughing at their jokes and ask them to send the jokes to you and then show the manager)
I'm sorry you have to deal with them at all.


Jo said...

Everybody: Yeah, I'm going to the manager. After a night's (day's) sleep and a hot shower, I think that's the best plan.

I just have to get to the point where I'm able to be calm about it, rather than just going in and making her deal with my exploding head. Ranting to the manager about this wouldn't be constructive; what she needs in order to handle the problem is a rational report of the situation. I am not rational right now.

I'm so far from rational that violence seems like a good option. Seriously.

Memune said...

Having grown up in a family very much like that (so much so that my dad was exiled permanently, so there's a whole side of my family tree I've never met), I vote for managerial intervention. All the way up.

Of course, if you decide on violence, I've got your back. Just email me.


me said...

Document, document, document, then
report, report, report.

They have NO business dealing with patients (nor anyone else)with such sick attitudes.

And if management twiddles it's thumbs, go straight to your Nursing Board.

Sending you all good vibes for strength and clarity ~~~

'Drea said...

I can't believe that he felt comfortable enough to show you that picture AND laugh -- assuming that you would cosign, not be offended or both.

What a troglodyte.

I can't believe that it's 2010 and there are still individuals who are so devolved.

It's appropriate that this is taking place in a hospital because it's sickening.

Earl said...

I agree with Anonymous 1:51. These idiots are creating a hostile work environment, totally illegal.

I worked in the space industry for 44 years (white, male & middle-class). Each, and every year, it was drilled into us that such actions are illegal and grounds for dismissal.

It would help you make your case if you documented each incident.

Good luck, Earl

Nancy said...

You know, don't let your manager sweep it under the rug saying it will be handled. This is really something for HR because they are the ones who can and should thwack them.

Ideally, she would walk you to HR where you both can report this.

Bardiac said...

Words fail me.

I hope your manager has your back.

I'm really sorry you have to deal with this, but I hope you will.

Penny said...

You've got to speak up. This is LIGHT YEARS beyond even remotely acceptable behavior.

This makes me FURIOUS.

Anonymous said...

Im sure you will not be the only person to come forward and say something. Assholes have a way of offending everyone in a 5 mile radius.

woolywoman said...

Illegal, immoral, despicable, violent, and revolting. Take it all the way up the food chain. Management has to at least mouth the right thing, keep it going until he is fired. You can do it. Hang tough. Document every single thing-in a similar situation is was told that your calendar is your evidence.

Geosomin said...

Wow...I would be suspended for 3 days for something like that.
I hope your HR stands up for you. That is just taking it way too far...

Teri said...

I'm from Detroit. My parents, who were born and raised here (both born in the mid-1920s) were raised with a certain amount of us and them. It never seemed to be hostile or evil--just a separation sort of mind set. They however, raised me to NOT be this way--they recognized it was wrong.

There was this one time when we were vacationing down in Florida. My mother and I were at a local department store and went to the service counter for assistance with something. There was an older white woman behind the counter helping a few other customers. She dropped by us and said quite pleasently: "I'm so sorry, I am with another customer. I can have "___" help you if that's all right?" then she leaned forward and whispered "She's black--is that okay?". Cue jaw drop. My mom answered "We're white. Is that okay with her?"

Anonymous said...

Consider this. They don't really feel that way about minorities, because if they did, they would not be able to treat the patients with the care you discribed. Maybe they have found out what pushes your buttons. It's all about their relationship to you and not to the minorities.

And I echo all of the comments about the illegality of the actions and advise a report to management. Can you get hard evidence? Do they e-mail this stuff to you?


Anonymous said...

You know I dont think it is about getting them fired or in trouble. It is much deeper than that and chances are you would be the one to pay NOT that that is right either. OK now I am going to be bashed for that but I see your point completely. Funny thing is I am married to one of those type of guys (professional privileged middle class white male). I feel as you do even though I am (now) a privileged white female. I have also worked for many of those men in my career. I do my best to call them on it. I point out what is wrong, offensive and tell them to really think about it. I do what I can and it drives me nuts too. I would have dropped my jaw at that one too. What do these guys think? There you have it, they don't think. It sucks but you and I and whoever can just has to try to educate these bast*rds and if that doesn't work at least we care enough about people to try.

Moose said...

You are a far, far better person than I am, because I would have punched that clown so hard they would have found him in June.

Jo said...

Moose: "Punched him so hard they would've found him in June" is awesomeburger with awesomesauce and a side of awesome. I am totally stealing that one.

John S said...

I fit the demographic you describe (old, white, male, right wing), and I am a manager, and you need to camp on yours for all of 24 hours; if you are not called in to HR to make a formal complaint within that time period, accompanied by that manager, you MUST go to HR yourself.

That crap cannot stand.

Allison in Texas said...

Oh, I feel your pain. I live and work in Texas, too. And I grew up in Alabama. I had a shouting match at my job around election time with a group of doctors and nurses that was highly unpleasant- all of them against me (and pinko-commie terrorist-loving liberals). Luckily, my director is okay. It's hard to decide if the topper was the doctor telling the nurse that racism doesn't exist in the same breath that he said he and all of his friends would "never vote for a black person no matter how qualified" or if it was overhearing 2 surgeons saying they thought liberals were inherently evil, because why else would they be such do-gooders if they weren't trying to make up for something? These are the same people who still think Bush has been unfairly maligned. My head needs to explode sometimes, too.
PS Love your blog. I used to work ICU until I realized I am more on the hospice spectrum of things. Now I work PACU and it's pretty fun.

Anonymous said...

I am a black man working in the south and just seen the same photo on a co-workers phone. Still waiting to see what happens. Keep you posted.