Tuesday, August 12, 2014

hot water bleeding the colors

It would be so easy to return to blogging by talking about the new television show The Knick, which filled my head with thoughts for its full one hour.

It would also, in a different way, be easy to talk about the death of Robin Williams and talk about depression. Even though it would be an uncomfortable topic, and it would get too personal, too quickly, it would be easy because it's familiar. It's something I understand all too well. When people write of his death as sudden or shocking, I'm not sure I share that sentiment. Yesterday was a sad, sad day for the entertainment industry, and for those of us whose first taste of American television was Mork & Mindy, but it was something, nevertheless, I understood. Depression is a horrible disease; so is cancer. But it is a disease, and I understand it, and I know how not everyone can survive a disease over time. I know that all too well in my business. I know that all too well personally.

But what is much harder to write about, because I can't write about it coherently, not even a little bit, is this goddamn useless excuse for a country. See, that's the garbage that comes bubbling up into my brain when I start thinking about Ferguson. It's not just Ferguson. It would be so convenient, and it's the way of the mainstream media to always make it just about Ferguson, or just about Trayvon Martin. Special circumstances. A one-time thing. Complicated.

See. But it's not that complicated. It's just simply horrible, and I can't write a sensible thing about it, not one, because all I see is rage and ugliness and this frustrated, weary, defeated anger. Like I just give up. Like who would ever have a child in this country? Like who bothers to fight in this stupid system?

There's something that's happened to me in the last several years, since I have become a physician. It is a bit different from the normal course of a physician. Because most people start medical school when they are quite young and they are just forming an opinion of the world. And so they have some opinions, perhaps, and then they have many more based on their experiences in the medical profession. For me, it's been a little different. I knew who I was when I went into the field of medicine.

But here's the thing- I knew who I was, but I didn't know who other people were, not completely. Oh I did for a little while. For a brief period of time, I worked in a research lab in New Jersey, and I was the little meek Indian nerd mixing solvents in the corner, and because I was quiet, I would hear all manner of ridiculous talk about forming a militia and Hilary Clinton being too big for her britches (this is back when she was the First Lady, whooo hoo, the memories) and how people were making too big of a deal about this OJ thing. But that was just a brief glimpse, and I thought they were just some lab nuts, because I got into the corporate field where people largely keep such opinions to themselves. And then I moved to San Francisco, and at that time, people were comparing Gavin Newsom to Ronald Reagan so I was working with a bunch of folks who were genuinely, truly surprised Kerry lost the election.

So I wasn't really prepared for what happened when I became a physician. I had always been a little bit of a listener, because I was always interested in what people were really thinking, and I had found that if you kept your mouth shut for long enough, people's true natures would come out. So the last several years, well, I have seen some things. It's a weird relationship. People just give you their two cents. I don't know why. It's not like telling your doctor that climate change is a hoax has any bearing on how they treat your diabetes or your multiple myeloma. Still, I don't know, I guess because it's a safe space, when that door closes, when it's just you and your physician, the truth must out.

I don't know why I'm writing all of this down. I guess to say- I've seen inside the minds of a lot of people, and we're broken. Not all of us. But more than there should be. It's 2000-and-freaking-14 and I've still got to listen to a pack of white men tell me that Obama's a racist who only cares about black people. I still have to patiently explain to these old white men that I was born in America, and even after I've explained that, they've still asked me if I "plan to go back to India?" Oh, but it's so, so much worse than any of that. My colleagues have made disparaging racist remarks- which they attribute to working in an environment where we see minorities 'take advantage of the system.' Bull-freaking-shit. The system has taken advantage of them. Our entire system is so broken that our most vulnerable population, socioeconomically, racially, are set up to be the sickest, and to have the least access to proper preventative healthcare.

This is around the time that my brain starts to feel close to stroking out.

There is subtle stuff too. Like how the white male in a program is encouraged and mentored and pushed to succeed, while the minority is scrutinized or left to his or her own devices. But there is just that one case, right? It doesn't apply to every place, right? There is subtle stuff in treatment too, like how there are disparities in the outcomes of non-white patients, but ohhhhh, we can't attribute that all to racism. It's just one study. It's just one outcome. And then another, and then another, and then how many apples have to hit Newton on the goddamn head before he starts to think there's something to gravity?

This is why I haven't written. I can't. Not without losing the thread, without going off kilter. I can't talk about it, because I would be dismissed as ranting. Or better yet- a hysterical woman of color, that's pretty much the best way to get invalidated out there. And anyway, I don't know what to do anymore. I don't know what it will take to change things. I don't know if anything will change. Whatever is all I can summon to the audacity of hope. You be audacious. I'm inconsolable, and angry, and defeated, and I don't even know what I'm trying to say anymore, so I'm just going to stop. But not in my head. I'm not going to forget Brown or Martin. I'm not going to forget the Japanese kid who got shot for jaywalking when I was in graduate school (a solid 10+ years ago, in California, I might add). I'm not going to think of them as just one case.

1 comment:

Maitri said...


It's exactly why I haven't been blogging lately. These are the most important things to talk about, but burying myself in work keeps the world from screamy ALL-CAPS rants about the very-real patriarchy and asshats who demand to know why I have no relative in India and to "do" accents. In corporate America, I might add.

Katrina didn't teach America anything, I don't expect the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown will.

GAH. You're awesome. GAH.