Accused of being racist - how to handle? - page 6

In caring for an African American child this morning, her father accused me of being both "racist" and "uppity." Apparently, while I was tending to his child, he asked me repeatedly how to make a... Read More

  1. by   Soup Turtle
    I've heard "you're racist" comments so many times that I just IGNORE them- completely. People are going to think what they want to think, but I won't allow myself to be drawn in to feeling defensive about a comment that doesn't describe me.
  2. by   LadyEJ BSN, RN
    Quote from wantobern
    as a nurse, you are going to meet alot of obnoxious, rude patients and families. you just have to learn to ignore what they are saying.
  3. by   luv4nursing
    Some of the comments in this thread make me a little all means I believe that the OP was in no way racist, but its sad that the majority of white people like to pull the wool over their eyes as if this type of thing rarely happens and anytime a black person says "the R word", they are pulling the race card. Whether you want to admit it or not, racism is still very much alive and it happens all day every day. If black people experience racism in their every day life, why do u think they would expect any different just because they are in a healthcare environment? Yes, the days of slavery and jim crow laws are over, but we are far from singing "we are the world".

    I dont think its a concept most people who have never experienced it can understand. I even go through this (trying to make him understand) with my fiance, who is white. He has some nasty preconceived ideas that he learned growing up that Im not sure he will every fully get over. Sometimes I tell him, you dont think racism exists? Take a look around at the looks of disapproval we often get everywhere we go. Its not something we make up in our imaginations...if he thinks he gets treated differently just for being WITH me, imagine how I sometimes get treated for BEING ME. How would you feel if u never measured up no matter what you did? He has a sister who is probably a KKK member, who openly hates black people and disapproved of our relationship and is furious now that we are getting married (I guess she thought it was a phase/we were a fling). Who is she to judge me? She lives in public housing, has a drug habit, doesnt work, etc, etc....and Im someone doing something with my life with a good head on my shoulders....yet in her opinion Im the scum of the earth?

    Ok, sorrrry, obviously I needed to vent a little! lol:spin:

    on a humorous note, I was in psych clinicals a few days ago and one of the patients (a middle aged hispanic man) became irate in general during group therapy, and when my instructor started talking...he loudly demanded to know...(standing up and pointing to me) "WHY is SHE the ONLY BLACK student in the class!!!!??!?!???....*instructor tries to explain that there are other black students, just not in my group*....."NO, I want to know! WHY IS SHE THE ONLY BLACK ONE!!!?!?!?......I got a good laugh out of that one. Later in the afternoon, to joke with my instructor I went up to her and said "can I ask you a question?"....."WHY am I the ONLY BLACK STUDENT int he class????".....bwahahahaha

    Sorry I kinda got off topic....I dont think the OP is racist, my point is just that racism is a part of our lives, and its just very difficulty to understand it if it doesnt happen to you on a regular basis. And just like every white person isnt racist, every black person who calls someone racist isnt pulling the race card. Often (but NOT always), they have good reason for feeling that way.
  4. by   Ms.RN
    so many people are sue happy nowadays that they deliberately try to irritate nurses. one of my co-worker was sued because the family member didn't like what she said. just kill the family member with kindness.....
  5. by   scholar
    Quote from i_am_julia
    where's the documentation that state african american's are parnoid regarding the establishment of health care?

    thank you! i thought i was the only one who caught on to that statement "...very paranoid"
  6. by   Soup Turtle
    I agree that racism exists, but I don't think people do themselves any favors when they jump to conclusions. I'm a hispanic girl with a hispanic name. I've got the grandma who speaks spanish and makes tamales with plenty of lard and her own pig! Anyway, I've found that most people see me as white, non-hispanic and are surprised to find out that I'm not.

    And the point is...I've been accused of discrimination by hispanic people on MANY occasions when they didn't get their way. I've even had a few tell me they were going to sue me for being "racist". (Good luck with that!) It's seriously annoying. What I find even more sad is that these people teach their children to be paranoid about who they are.
  7. by   scholar
    Quote from Susan9608
    Both of these statements make it seem like it's a common and accepted pattern of behavior for minorities to claim racism, even if they don't truly believe racism is occurring, just to push buttons or incite anxiety. I find it digusting if that's true and if other people accept that behavior as okay or typical. Why should minorities get to engage in these types of behaviors just because their minorities?
    Please be careful of what you decide to share on this forum. As soon as I read the response, I figured someone would reply with one of these messages. I agree that it is unacceptable behavior to call someone a racist just to push buttons.

    There are some minorities who probably do just call people racist to incite anxiety, but I have yet to encounter one. There are straight guys who are called fagots. There are virgins who were called *****. There are people who are falsely accused all the time of being or doing something that they did not. There was a time when _______ could be falsely accused of something & be lynched. Why should majorities get to engage in this type of behaviors just because their majorities? My God, the nurse wasn't crucified and she's still allowed to practice.
  8. by   scholar
    Quote from CHATSDALE
    there is distrust with minorities about the health care and with police
    i think that both of these callings do the best that they can sometimes the outcome is hard to accept but don't believe that there is any deliberate abuse or neglect
    Someone commented earlier that african americans are VERY paranoid when it comes to the healthcare system.... I was offended b/c it was a generalization; however, you nailed me when you stated police.

    But there are many minorities who are not in your category of distrusting both the police and healthcare. On a personal note, I don't necessarily distrust the police, I just dont have respect for the profession as much as I should. I know that was harsh but its the truth. I know officers make the world a safer place & etc. And they are real people & etc.

    I have never done anything illegal except a few minor traffic tickets. But I dont discriminate racially. I dont like white/black/hisp/asian officers, b/c they are all bias. But I guess they have to be in order to do their job. I still believe that your skin color can make a difference between you living and being shot 4-47 times in the back.
  9. by   scholar
    Quote from Susan9608
    A quick update:

    This is not a newborn baby. This is a 10 year old with a long, complicated medical history. She was removed from her parents care at one point, but has since been returned.

    I don't know what "subtle, non-verbal" racist cues the dad could have been picking up on, because I treated him and his daughter the same way I treat all my patients. I'm very sorry, but his phone call is not as important to me as his daughter with O2sats in the 70s.

    I'm a little disgusted by the remarks a few people have made about how he probably didn't really think I'm racist, but was just trying to push my buttons. That's total manipulation, and the remarks made to that effect seem to be condoning - or at least tolerating - that type of behavior. Why in the world would someone claim something as serious and devestating as racism simply to "push buttons"? I think that's sick, sick behavior.

    I talked to my charge nurse and my supervisor. I have done nothing but basic care; my charge nurse has done all the teaching required. I will not have this assignment again tomorrow, thankfully.

    The patient's mom is here now, and she doesn't seem to have any problem with me. I tend to think that the dad was angry that I wouldn't drop everything and tend to *his* problem. unfortunately, it's not my job to be a secretary and tend to people's phone calls and phone issues.

    I'm a good nurse, and I've taken good care of his daughter today.

    Since earlier posts talked about psych let's really analyze this issue. There are 2 sides to every story. There are verbal and non-verbal ques that allow minorities to see if someone is racist. We don't know what really happened but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. The father was wrong for accusing you of being racist. I would have just kept it to myself, just as long as you were taking care of my daughter.

    Could he be showing displaced anger b/c his daughter is sick & you are the nearest target? Could he be projecting his feelings towards you? Maybe he's the one that's actually racist. Could it be that you failed to acknowledge him in a respectable manner? Would it have been too confrontational for you to tell him like a professional what your main priority is right now? Why did you feel the need to broadcasts this on the forum? R u unsure if you're a racist or not? Do you need validation? Why r u so quick to get assigned to another patient?

    Later, I would have documented what he said. Then I would have pulled him to the side and said "It most be very hard to know that you have a sick daughter right now. Etc. Im sorry, what makes you believe that I'm racist. I'm not racist, but if you feel uncomfortable with me as your daughter's nurse I will be more than happy to assign you another nurse."

    But I guess that would have taken too much time & patience for an unappreciative ____. What I believe really happened is that both you and him were agitated about something earlier that day. How dare he interrupt you & ask about some bull**** You gave a certain expression on your face or inflection in your tone or either gave him no eye contact whatsoever and he was offended. Next time let him Know what you're doing with his child and where he could be helped. Instead you came off as Im a nurse go waste some low level employees time..
  10. by   one_speed
    Ahh, the racism line...

    the last line for self centered losers all around the world.

    Before anyone gets all " uppity" over that comment. Unless the OP was insulting the person byh saying that he was too stupid to place a calling card call because of his gender, creed, or race I don't see how he can play the racism card. More to the point I think his comment on how " uppity" ( I think it smacks of white mid to upper class conotations) this nurse might have been was more to be concerned about.

    Sure maybe he has been trated like crap in the past, maybe it's the only way he knows to get what he wants in this world... honestly, I'd have laughed in his face ( a little therapeutic reinforcement) and told him to call the switchboard operator while I was taking care of his child.

    I have been faced with the issue in tha past, up here I don't deal with a lot of people of colour, but while we have a very diverse community a lot of our patients are aborigional peoples. 99.999 % of the people I know, and deal with are the best people on this planet, there is always some poor jerk who feels that we are all against him and of course if he doesn't get what he wants it because of his skin colour. It seems like it is his racist attitudes that colour his perceptions of thos around him.

    Does this make any sense ?

    Don't trade with other staff, you are catering to his whims and reinforcing the bad. Don't worry about the crap, focus on caring for the kid / patient. If he doesn't like that he can step out of the room to make his call.

    Last edit by one_speed on May 26, '07 : Reason: spelling sucks
  11. by   jojotoo
    Quote from TheCommuter
    Some black people can sense 'undercover racism' through nonverbal communication (glances, facial expressions, intonation, gestures, etc). I am not saying you're racist by any means, but this man probably came to his conclusion based on what he saw.

    Why do they think, or how do they know it's racism? Maybe they are just sensing that I think they are stupid, obnoxious, demanding, or a jerk, and their race (sex, religion, sexual orientation,etc.) has nothing to do with it.
  12. by   DidiRN
    Quote from Susan9608
    In caring for an African American child this morning, her father accused me of being both "racist" and "uppity." Apparently, while I was tending to his child, he asked me repeatedly how to make a long-distance phone call with a calling card. I gave him the instructions as I know them, but apparently he was still unable to place this call. His child was de-satting at the time, and had blood coming from the incisions in her mouth and secretions pouring from her trach. His phone call was not at the top of my priority list.

    So he asked me if "you have something against black people or something." I guess because I was tending to his child and not helping him place his important phone call, I'm now racist.

    I'm having a hard time because a) I feel very insulted and b) I'm supposed to teach him how to care for his child so she can go home today. How receptive to me is he going to be if he thinks I'm racist? And I'm not sure about dealing with my own feelings after being accused of being racist.

    I'm honestly not sure how he got that I'm racist just because I was occupied at the moment and couldn't help him place his phone call. In all honesty, I'm pretty pissed. Any suggestions on how to handle this?
    Hi Susan, here's my two cents.

    Do not allow yourself to focus on WHAT he said, but WHY he said it. Try to figure out what is going on with him to provoke him to say this. Do not take this personally. And yes, I know, it's MUCH easier said then done

    Of course you have the first priority of taking care of your patients and their well-being, but whenever I have had someone this angry and upset, and lashing out in this manner, most of the time it's really not you, it's something else and you unfortunately got to be the scape goat at the moment. And believe me, I know how hard it is when you are busy and stressed out, how difficult it is to not take what he said personally. But try not to allow him to make you feel this way.

    Pull up a chair, have a face to face talk with him. Ask him why he felt that way and what you can do to help. Tell him you were deeply focused on his daughter and worried about her sats, and then allow him to talk and just sit there and listen. Do not say anything, just allow him to talk. Dont' defend your actions at the time, just allow him to get it all out, even if what he says is not true and inappropriate. Once you let him vent, then you can discuss details of it. You would be surprised how much it helps people just to let them vent and talk, without you saying a word; it calms most of them down eventually after letting them have their say, and it can do wonders to improve your relationship with him and yourself. A lot of the times after this, you might even get an apology from them for their behavior and what they said. And be able to gain some of their trust and respect and be able to get into some of the teaching you need to do.

    That being said, I know that in this day and age of hospital nursing and the high acuities and such, it is near impossible at times to do this. We are already stressed and frustrated with our own job duties, and this makes it even more difficult to deal with situations like this. This is where you can possibly get your charge nurse or nursing supervisor down to have a chat with them if you are just too busy to do this. And if you get someone who is so angry that it might turn into something physical and you feel threatened by physical harm, of course then it's best to call for some help. But if you can have a few moments to sit and talk to him directly yourself, it's amazing sometimes how much this can help and make the rest of your shift much, much easier.

    And even if he truly is a jerk and doesn't care about his daughter, you will know this for sure and be able take appropriate action for this. At the very least, you will know for sure where he is coming from.

    Like I said, it's very hard to confront an angry, name-calling person in any situation when you yourself are stressed out, and our first reaction is to retreat from the attack and feel hurt and angry, but by keeping the lines of communication open and clear, and allowing them to vent, it may take extra time and get you even further behind in your workload (and of course, you have to weigh in if you even have time to do this, priorities of course), but in the end, it will make them feel better and yourself feel better.

    But like I've said before, this is so much easier said then done. I even have to stand back sometimes and take a deep breath and not allow it to get to me personally. It's a real challenge for me at times. But in all honesty, if I follow through with what I've said above, I have so far never had it fail for me.

    Good luck,

  13. by   Susan9608
    Well, my day ended on an even worse note.

    This child ended up not being able to be discharged home because we could not wean her off of oxygen. The family, in anticipation of her being dicharged, went ahead and cancelled their medicaid funding for housing, food, and transportation. (I believe they are homeless at the moment and were staying in a hotel paid for by medicaid.) The family waited until 1800 to tell me this and asked for a social worker. Our social workers leave at 5:00. We have no on-call social worker. So I paged our social worker, but she didn't call back immediately. I paged her again after 20 minutes, and then our secretary paged her again after 40 minutes.

    At that point, the dad came out of the room and asked me about the social worker. I told him why we were having a hard time getting ahold of her, but that we had paged her multiple times. He got very irritated and started asking me about another social worker he knows - "don't you know Doris or Dorothy?" When I said I wasn't familiar with them, he became irate and started screaming that if I've worked at my facility for over a year, then I damn well ought to know people. Then he announced that I'm totally "worthless" and "not worth talking to" and that "It's because of you and your lousy care that she has to spend another night here, you up-tight, lousy, !@#$ b**ch." Then he went and talked to our secretary, who - while he is white - he's also male.

    This gentleman also made a point to tell everyone who went into his room, from the secretary to the RT, that I"m a "uppity" racist b**ch. When asked why he thought so, he said, "I can tell from the way she look and the way she carries herself."

    So ... I called my manager at home and explained what was going on. She told me not to worry, that there wouldn't be any negative reprecussions for me due to his behavior and that by getting out of control like that, he lost all credibility anyways, so not to worry. At least I don't have to worry about an official reprimand.

    I was actually afraid to walk out last night, because I thought I might have to pass this man in the waiting room. I had to get an escort.

    It's very strange, because when dad was gone, and mom was there, the mom and I got along great. We laughed and joked and bathed the patient together and played with her and she was very receptive and responsive to me. And I didn't behave any differently with the mom than I did with the dad. so I'm not sure what the problem was ... unless the dad was the one who had a problem with me being white and female. He sure didn't seem to have a problem with any of the men he dealt with. Just me. The lonely female. (the doctor, RT, and secretary that he talked to were all men.)

    So perhaps he's sexist ...

    All in all, it doesn't really matter. I will not be assigned to that patient again. Yes, it did bother me to be called racist because I felt it was totally unwarranted. But what bothered me more is that his attitude towards me really inhibited the way I was able to care for his child. That's my whole goal at work - to care for the child.

    Anyways, he'll have a different nurse today (though I'm sure she'll be white, too). Hopefully he'll be happier, and I'll be happier, and maybe his daughter will get to go home today.