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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Ripped from the headlines

There's the news, and there's what we think of the news. I'm curious to get your take on the following. I've provided links too, in case you'd like to read the original stories in their entirety.

  • A 28-year-old Pennsylvania man is in jail, and his 41-year-old brother-in-law is in the hospital, after they argued over Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and the younger man, a Clinton supporter, stabbed the older man. There is no punchline. Except maybe that Stabby McStabber may not make it to the polls to vote for Clinton in Penn's upcoming primary.
  • That first one leads me right back to Obama. The Associated Press ran an interesting story over the weekend about how black Americans - the story would suggest lots, even though I'm certain they only interviewed four or five - fear Obama's life is increasingly in danger the better he does in this presidential race. Some of the people in the story flashed back to Martin Luther King Jr. and how he was killed, and he wasn't even trying to run the country. For me, this story presents an interesting contrast. On the one hand it examines this man who has seemingly overcome the skin color millstone hanging around his neck and made himself attractive to people of multiple races and ethnicities. On the other hand it examines a place and time where people still fear his skin color could get him killed if he does too well. Which place and what time do we live in? Setting aside his politics, I think that fear might be rational. I mean there was a time I thought the only black person who could be president was Morgan Freeman, and even then he was usually cast as president in a movie when the earth was about to be destroyed in a day or two. Even comedians have always said that if we got a mixed presidential ticket - black pres. candidate and white VP candidate, or the other way around - some extremist from one race or the other would try to do harm to whomever the top dog was. I wonder.
  • In my old stomping grounds in Milwaukee, Wis., a woman has filed a discrimination suit against a nursing home she used to work for - she quit; she wasn't fired, because she feels like she was hassled and menaced while working there for speaking Spanish on the phone to her mother, and with another co-worker. In case you don't follow the link, the woman's mother doesn't speak English. And she says she and the co-worker only spoke Spanish to one another in private, personal conversations while at work. She didn't speak Spanish to any of the patients or other staff, since apparently none of them spoke the language. Also, she spoke Spanish at work for more than six years. It was only more recently, when a new supervisor was hired, did the home present (or start enforcing) a "dominant language" policy: that you can speak whatever you want - even on the job - in a private setting and a personal conversation, but around patients you speak the language they're comfortable with and accustomed to. The home's management, after the arrival of the new supervisor, warned the woman in question about speaking Spanish around the patients, and even disciplined her. Their logic was it made some of the patients uncomfortable since they didn't know what was being said, and it took some of the patients' dignity away since they were in the dark. I don't know about this one. I've sat in restaurants where everyone around me spoke a different language. Did it make me uncomfortable? A little, I guess. I'm human. But it wasn't about me trying to mold people in my image. It was about a comfort zone, a lack of familiarity, especially when I was ordering and sometimes eating food whose description I already didn't understand. Living in an area like Miami, I hear all sorts of conversations going on around me that I don't understand. It doesn't bother me. It is what it is. I can't expect everyone to speak what I'm speaking, unless they're speaking to me. On the other hand, who knows? Maybe the nursing home really meant well and just intended to make their patients comfortable. It might not matter though, since an EEOC spokesman says the home's policy may already violate federal anti-discrimination law.

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8 Comments:

  • As I was watching a news story on the Democratic race while getting ready for work this morning, I thought about the possibility of Obama's life being in danger. In the article you linked to, a Labor Dept. employee mentioned a young acquaintance who said that they wouldn't vote for Obama out of fear for his safety. I think that's taking things too far. Although I think the potential for something to happen to him because of his race, I am not consumed with worry.

    By Blogger Malcolm, at 12:50 PM  

  • Stabby McStabby? LOL!! Excellent!!

    As for the language issue...ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous. I suppose in a country this large, with so many people not exposed to other cultures and languages daily, it's to be expected that some people have issues, but still, it's ridiculous.

    By Blogger Claudia, at 12:03 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy, at 9:54 AM  

  • Honestly? I'm worried about Obama's safety, too. I hate to even THINK about it, but the fear has been in the back of my mind ever since I heard the imperial wizard of the KKK admitting that if Obama got elected... well. Here's the link

    By Blogger thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy, at 9:57 AM  

  • My husband and I have had the EXACT SAME conversation about Barack Obama, and the fear that he might become a target. Not for his color, but for his charisma. If you listen to him speak, he INSPIRES people, much like JFK and MLK did - and that is a threat to "The Establishment" that runs this country behind the scenes.

    That's what will threaten his life - his call for the people to rise up and make a change in this country. I'm glad we're not the only ones worried about this.

    By Blogger Tiggerlane, at 3:57 PM  

  • 1) That's why you can't talk politics, religion, money, sushi, or the weather with some people.

    2) Unfortunately, a segment of our country still thinks like butt holes and might try to target a non-white president. But hopefully that group catches the bird flu and dies before long.

    3) I hope the former nursing home woman gets them for all they're worth. I was told that the founding fathers intended for this country to be a place that all could call home. Some of us came involuntarily, but now that we're here, let's embrace the salad bowl that we are.

    By Blogger katrice, at 10:31 PM  

  • The interesting discussion I heard was a group of women in DC discussing the rise in hatred of women as it becomes more obvious that Obama is the Democratic nominee and probable President and that Clinton lost to him. Their reasoning was that a woman made it to the Supreme Court before a Black did. Never a mention of competence, or a Black Woman. Too bad. The Black Woman in the group identified with the Women, as there was some sense of agreement. This was in the hallway near my elevator.

    By Blogger The CEO, at 8:39 AM  

  • How many old people in Wisconsin know Spanish?

    How many old people in nursing homes (anywhere in the US, or arguably the world) are, to some degree, paranoid (be it because of a medication, a degenerative neurological condition, etc)?

    Many of the people in these nursing homes deal with significant (and often ignored) abandonment issues -- many often feel that the children (or siblings or nieces and nephews) they loved for so long just dumped them in this hell hole with bad food and uncomfortable beds. And the people surrounding them are speaking a language they can't even understand...

    More information is needed. If this woman and her colleagues were careful about watching the patients' mannerisms and responses (and determining comfort v. discomfort) then she's in great shape. If, however, they ignored the comfort of the patients (in what has become their own homes) and had personal conversations in a foreign language, they have some level of responsibility as a caretaker.

    Spanish is a beautiful language -- it has so much more emotion sometimes and inflection than English. Imagine the "personal conversation" being funny and full of laughter -- it's not that far off base for a patient to feel as though (s)he's being laughed at. Or, already in a nursing home, imagine the personal conversation being about a terminally ill relative in his/her last days -- low voices, slower speech, sympathetic and/or pained facial expressions; it's hardly unreasonable for a patient to wonder whether the nurses are discussing HIS health situation (and using a different language because they don't want to upset him with the truth -- a common practice in hospitals when many of our beloved parents and grandparents were alive)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:05 AM  

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