News Flash: Not Everyone Is in the Majority

I felt ashamed today. Called out for being different, a part of my heart broke and the thought crossed my mind that I’m wrong for being the way I am.

This incident may seem small, but it caused big ripple effects in my mind. It’s become clear to me how important it is to show consideration for others, to carefully analyze how our actions and words impact others.

I arrived early this morning for a medical appointment to get a CT scan (been dealing with chronic headaches and looking into possible causes). I took off the morning from work, fasted, and got myself to the office on time. When it was my turn, they prepared me with an IV and said I was ready to go.

The nurse looked at my piercings (nose and ear) and asked me to take them out. I told her it wasn’t that simple. These piercings are not easily removed (that’s kind of the point, don’t want those suckers falling out!). We lamented that it might not be possible to remove them then and there. I wondered if there was another option. She brought the doctor out, who immediately looked annoyed with me.

He talked to me as if I had been refusing to take them out, insisting that “there’s no point in doing the X-ray with them in” and “you have to take them out.” “I know”, I responded, “I understand. I can’t take them out by myself”, I tried to clarify. He continued to repeat himself. I mentioned that I wasn’t told that I couldn’t have jewelry, that I would have been better prepared if I had known. (The secretary had told me to fast and which medications to avoid ahead of time.) He laughed at this suggestion, as if it was a ridiculous thought.

Then he looked me straight in the eyes, preparing to explain something to me that to him was obvious. To paraphrase, he said, “No one around here comes in with piercings like you. Nobody [in Medellin] wears those.”
With the look he gave me and his gestures at me, I heard his message.
You’re the weird one. And it’s not our fault you’re so different. If you were like other women here, we wouldn’t be having this problem.

Yesterday I was listening to a podcast episode by Elizabeth DiAlto on her show called Truth Telling. She was interviewing Desiree Adaway and they discussed the crucial steps to take before making a change or a decision. The first step? Awareness. The second (often forgotten) step is analysis.

Adaway described step 2 as the point where you pause to gather research, collect information, consider all viewpoints and possible consequences of the decision. She shared how frequently she sees others step into awareness, as in, notice a problem to solve, and quickly jump to action. The effect of skipping step 2 is harming others unintentionally.

DiAlto accounted an example of this from her experience. A comedy theater owner had banned plastic straw use and boasted of his participation in eliminating plastic waste. DiAlto says she couldn’t help herself but to speak out with a perspective not considered. “Did you know,” she quotes herself, “that getting rid of straws is a disadvantage to disabled people? They actually need bendy straws to drink from?”

Her example shows the result of action without analysis. We are often too eager to solve a problem to pause and consider all the ramifications. While we want to create less plastic waste, can we also be mindful of all communities affected by making changes? Yes, we can. In fact, we must. Every human deserves to be considered, to be treated with dignity.

I assume that what I experienced today was nothing compared to the lack of inclusion felt by many other marginalized groups. However, it woke me up inside to the duty I have, we have, to not simply say we celebrate diversity, but take deliberate time to analyze our potential decisions.

What might this look like? Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re running a business. You might take time to consider the ways you’re providing information. Is it available only online or do those without internet access have a way of being informed? Do images and text represent only one group or show a variety? Does the information assume that others look and act like you? How might you consider other perspectives?

If this medical office had taken time to consider diverse groups of people, they might share information with their patients like, most CT machines only hold up to 300lbs or even, refrain from wearing jewelry. Instead of making choices for the majority, they would communicate to the whole of humanity.

This analysis is not easy, but it is necessary. I believe that our efforts will result in beautiful changes, not thoughtless ones, that bring a brighter future.

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