What White People Think, a portrait series by Kathleen Dreier, is a call of action to recognize our responsibility to be proactive social change agents.
With Sara B.:
“This was a difficult prompt for me. Everything about my outward appearance screams “white!” However, everything on the inside is not white.
My dad is a self proclaimed “white-mutt” meaning he has no idea what makes up his DNA, only that it’s definitely of European decent. My mom is Mexican. My appearance takes after my dad, but my culture and upbringing are definitely that of my mom.
This has always caused an internal struggle, or identity crisis. I have always been too white for Mexicans and too Mexican for white people. However, it has also allowed me the best of both worlds. I get to experience and be a part of my culture first hand, and not just as a spectator, but I also get all of the privileges of being white. This has been apparent to me since I was about 8 years old.
Most recently, I was able to enjoy my white privilege, when I had my son this past August 2020. I had a fantastic experience! Everyone was very nice and helpful and super accommodating, even in the midst of Covid. I was checked on frequently before, during, and after my labor. Any questions I had were answered right away and were never questioned, even if it was about pain medication. I seriously could not have had a better experience even though you could tell a lot of the staff was stressed, fatigued, and overworked. This experience however, was not the same for one of my black mama friends, who I will refer to as Nadine for her privacy.
I was very honored to be a part of Nadine’s labor experience. She posted on FB that she had no support and needed someone, anyone during her labor and delivery. I reached out to her, and was able to be there with her through most of her time at the hospital. She gave birth to a beautiful baby girl of the beginning of last year.
Her experience was definitely the opposite of mine. There were LONG periods of time between check ins, even when she pushed her call button when something didn’t feel right. When someone did come in, they would barely ask her anything, they mostly just checked her vitals and looked at her monitor. When Nadine asked questions, they either answered with, “is this a concern you have?” or “let me check with the doctor…” even for simple questions concerning restroom use. I remember specifically, Nadine asked about the potential side effects of pain medication and about any effects they may have on her daughter, and instead of answering her questions, the nurse said, “let me grab someone for you” and left the room. When she finally returned, she had a counselor with her, who proceeded to ask Nadine every type of drug question you could think of: Have you ever used pain medication? Have you ever experimented with certain types of drugs? Have you ever used anything? Have you ever used anything while pregnant? How often do you take Tylenol for pain?….and the list goes on. Not only did she not answer any of Nadine’s questions, she left with a concerned look on her face after Nadine proudly said, “I don’t know what these questions for me are for, I only asked two simple questions about the drugs you’re currently giving me. I want to know this information so as not to put myself or daughter in any harm. I like to know about what goes into my body, and no I have never used, thank you very much!”
After the drug questioning incident, when anyone came into the room, they would ask Nadine a check in question and then defer everything else to me. I never understood why. I hadn’t been with Nadine during her pregnancy. The last real time I saw her was probably three years prior, and briefly, at a concert. I was only there for moral support, yet they continued to go to me as if I had all the answers and correct information. At one point, I got so upset I started lying. A nurse asked Nadine yet another drug related question, and after Nadine answered, the nurse turned to me and said, “do you remember any time we should know about, or any incidents?” I couldn’t believe it, bold face right in front of Nadine the nurse asks me this beyond insulting question.
Needless to say the rest of her stay and labor were pretty much the same. Not much care or kindness. Very little interaction and checking in on her. Disbelief or doubt in her answers. Much disrespect toward her and going over her to me. It was such a bad experience, I was extremely nervous about how my experience would go when I found out I was pregnant.
Knowing that this experience was racially charged, Nadine sent several complaints and letters to the hospital board, hoping to get a positive response or at least an apology. However, after receiving absolutely no response I decided to launch a complaint. I filled several different complaints with each department involved in her stay, and wrote detailed reviews on several review sites. The worst part was that I, not Nadine received a response.
So to sum it all up, this white person believes that it is our duty and responsibility to help those that encounter these types of despicable situations, and help give them a voice. We need to change the narrative and educate each other on how to be a decent human being. We need to seek those who are unaware of the privilege and point it out, make them grateful, and teach them to use it for good instead of taking advantage.
This white person thinks that our society, primarily white people, are the ones who should be getting the aggressive questioning.”