Dear Diary #1
I got a phone call last night from X, a white ex-classmate of mine. I was surprised to hear from her. We weren’t that close. She told me that she found the piece of paper in her address book that had my number on it and she felt the urge to call me. I listened as she explained how she felt regarding an incident that had happened when we worked and studied together.
When we were students, we ended up in the same hospital for our clinical rotation. It was a monstrous hospital, ever growing and very hard to get into. She, being a blonde from Staten Island, fitted in nicely with the other girls who loved to talk about TV shows, waxing their eyebrows and dumb things their boyfriends did.
Me, being black, working class, from NYC, who prefered books to TV and never revealed anything too personal…well…you know the rest. To say I stuck out like a sore thumb was putting it mildly. There was a tension in the room at all times whenever I was present. I now know that the name of that tension is called, “White Anxiety“. There was this one Italian girl, let’s call her Y, who hated the sight of me. Y did everything in her power to fuck me up. From giving me wrong information about policies and procedures, banning me from entering the patient’s room( that’s how we learned pertinent exams…from observing ) and…finally, writing a letter to the administration team of my school, imploring them not to let me graduate. I was written, in great detail, to be: Absent( 2 times in my entire internship ), argumentative, defiant, slow, aggressive and as someone who will “never make it.”
I cried openly the day when I was summoned to the administrator’s office. School was expensive and we didn’t have the money to begin with. They wondered what had happened to cause this woman to say such atrocious things about my character especially when I had gotten good reviews everywhere else. I pondered the consequences of telling the truth. I lied. I said I don’t know. From the look on his face, I knew that he didn’t believe me. The thing that stuck out for me, was this girl X. The same girl who witnessed my pain and suffering but said nothing. She saw and heard…but turned the blind eye. I’m not mad. Her education and career was on the line too. As you can guess, I did graduate and eventually moved on to my career.
So…why the phone call from X? It was to tell me that the day she found my number on the crumpled piece of paper, guilt hit her and she couldn’t sleep. She explained how she wanted to say something in my defense but nerves and fear won out over doing the “right thing.” She said she was sorry for all the things that happened and wishes now, that she, a mother of a black boy and wife to a black man, had spoken out on racism in the workplace. She asked me to forgive her for something so potent, so dangerous yet so widespread…silence.
Sure, X. No problem. That was ages ago. But now that your eyes are finally opened…please…next time…speak.