“Get out. Get her out of here!”
The instant I walked into that small, private Emergency Room following the provider I worked with that night, the patient doesn’t even acknowledge the provider. He pinpointed his sharp gaze onto me and his lip curled into this grimace. “Get out! Get out of the room!”
The room seemed to have turned frigid, and I turn my gaze to the provider. I’m panicking. I’m used to the passive racism that I’ve been exposed to but never have I met it face on like this; if it is active, it was only be from a distance. I didn’t know how to react and I’m furiously gazing from person to person in the room, waiting for a cue on how to react. The provider is still bent down about to inquire about the patient, and the woman taking insurance freeze and so do her once rapidly moving fingers on the keyboard prior to the rude exclamation coming from the patient. fingers freeze over the keyboard. I didn’t even have a chance to close the door behind me before his anger permeated into me. Or is it fair to say disdain?
The words still resonate in my mind, pinging from one corner to the next to the next and I wish that I could say that I could have reacted differently. But I didn’t. I’m clutching my mobile computer desk with numb fingers and my feet are rooted to the ground but I stay frozen in his spiteful glare. It was only after a second that I was able to remove my gaze from his. I wish I could have reacted differently.
He shouts it again. “Get out!”
I believe everyone in the room could hear me audibly flinch, and I try to swallow past the heavy weight in my throat. Not your fault, not your fault, not your fault. I glance at his wife, who’s standing there maybe as frozen as I am.
The provider still has his back to me but it is a rigid line, and what I see of his cheeks flush with embarrassment? Anger? He isn’t saying anything and he stands there, staring down at his patient. My heart’s still pounding a beat in my chest and I pray everyone in the room can’t hear it. I wish I didn’t get caught again in his gaze.
The provider tells him, “She’s my medical scribe. She takes my medical notes for me. Is there a reason she can’t stay?” His tone is controlled but tightly restrained. I watch, rapt and when I feel my eyes start to well with tears, I stare down at my computer screen. My chant turns to “don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry.”.
“I don’t care! Get out!” he bellows at me. I feel faint. Okay. Okay. I think that the harder I stared down at my screen, the easier it would be to pretend that what I just experienced didn’t actually happen.
“Kholood,” the mild tone of the doctor broke my gaze from the computer screen and he looks blurred out. “Can you please step out.”
I can’t speak but instead I nod minutely, barely moving my head, as I back out of the room and firmly close the door behind me. What the heck just happened? At this point, I’m trying to rationalize what happened, and I’m trying to put in as many excuses as I can for this guy.
He was ill. He was tired. He didn’t mean it. He was possibly on pain medication. Maybe he was just not in a good mood. But then why didn’t he yell at the doctor? Why didn’t he yell at the insurance woman? I can’t wrap my mind around it and it seemed that I couldn’t acknowledge that it was because it was me. My Muslim identity either threatened him or due to his abhorrent ignorance, it deterred him away from someone who was working on a team to help him.
I wait until the doctor walks out of the room and we make eye contact. “I’m so sorry, Kholood, I didn’t -.” I cut him off politely and firmly.
“Dr. ***, you didn’t do anything wrong. Thank you for the apology but you seriously didn’t do anything wrong.” I smiled meekly up at him and he audibly swallowed, I could still tell he was embarrassed. Or maybe afraid I would think differently of him. We went about our tasks, and I continuously could feel him looking at me.
It’s months later and I still think about the situation. I realize that the patient may have had prejudice against me or maybe a hatred for me because I’m Muslim. I was so livid with him and I can’t help ruminate about the feelings of shame, anger, and disbelief. And for what? It was startling with how vehement I was in my anger but now… now I pause and I try to find the reasoning for his hatred.
I will not and cannot make an excuse for him. I refuse. I can, though, look past him and his hatred and become stronger and better than this individual will ever be. He is angry. I am not. I will rise against his views on me. On the stereotypes that he perpetuated for my people and I will prove him and everyone wrong that Muslims can and will serve the community.
He may have thought he could kick me out because I’m only a medical scribe. Maybe if I was an administration woman. But he sure as hell will never kick me out when I’m a doctor.
Kholood Abuhadid is a fourth year Biomedical and Medical Lab Science student with minors in Creative Writing and Women’s Studies. She is Palestinian-American and is passionate about Palestinian rights as well as encompassing feminist intersectional ideology. Kholood is an avid reader and loves to dabble in creative writing. She hopes one day to establish herself in the world of medical research as well as have an active voice in the Public Health world. She also thinks she’s good at knitting but in reality is actually quite horrible! Managing editor.