I’m going to take my blog in a different direction for a bit to discuss a difficult topic; there are so many #whileblack posts going through social media. Thank goodness, my story didn’t involve the police, but I felt its worth discussing.
My mother and I are visiting beautiful Santa fe, New Mexico. We decided to get brunch at a popular spot called the Tea House. While enjoying a lavender honey latte (which was wonderful as it was beautiful) a well dressed caucasian woman approached our table. She had been looking very intently at our table. Here is the best recollection I can give of our conversation:
Well Dressed Caucasian Lady: “Did you notice the picture behind you?”
Me: “No I didn’t” at which point I turn to observe a painting. All I notice is that there is a Black man drinking coffee.
Me: “oh…I guess it’s nice”
Well Dressed Caucasian Lady: “its so interesting that your sitting beneath that picture during a time like now”
My mother and I : open mouth stare…
Well Dressed Caucasian Lady: “don’t you agree?”
Me: “I’m not sure what you mean”
But unfortunately I am sure what she means. For some unfortunate reason the well dressed lady felt a need to point out that I was Black drinking out of a coffee mug sitting beneath a painting of a black man drinking out of mug.
Well Dressed Caucasian Lady: “We need democracy now…don’t you think?”
At this point the atmosphere is very awkward. I sip my latte while my mom continues to look at the lady waiting for clarification.
I frequently discuss race issues among my black friends and family but not much with others. Being part of a minority group means very often you are the only black in an establishment. I think most of us don’t consciously think about this moment to moment. But being approached in a coffee shop and having it pointed out to you that you are a minority is taxing. We simply wanted to enjoy brunch, not get into a in depth discussion on race because we were the only blacks in the establishment.
As a physician, I am somewhat removed from many of the race issues going on. Although I have felt the effects of discrimination every step of the way, being a physician is skills driven, and many steps are blinded along the way. I am keenly aware everytime I read the news and see the ever more divisive language used that race relations are becoming more stressful all the time. But once I’m seeing patients, there is a veil of color blindness that comes. All lives matter to the healer, which makes my job easy. Every patient is important so there’s no stratifying who gets what. The challenges of caring for patients, worrying about tackling administrative task in a busy practice are so overwhelming, there simply wouldn’t be space for discrimination.
As a black woman on vacation without my white coat, I feel the ever present baseline vibration of racial tension. I recently shared with friends that I am frequently followed while shopping in stores, a practice that is still very common place. I have been blessed not to have been called any racial slurs directly to my face, I like all others of any color can sense the “Me”, “them”, “us” and “not us” that is pervasive.
I believe the Well Dressed Caucasian Lady meant no harm. I believe that she came into the Tea House, noticed a table with two black women and probably caught herself staring. I think she backfilled a reason with the picture, which wound up going to far and ending on an awkward note. I certainly wish her no ill will, and honestly, she had on a beautiful turquiose necklace that was probably made locally.
My mother and I weren’t upset. The brunch was wonderful and we were otherwise treated very well in Santa Fe. This incident made me curious about race and health and what the current research shows. In a future post, I will delve deeper into what the consequences racial discrimination, and how this low vibration affects health.