Sunday, November 24, 2013

Day 4

"How do I say this," he hesitated and thought really hard about his follow-up, "what are you Dr. Bennett?" he asked. Then he clarified, "I don't want to offend you, but what are you? African-American?"

Before coming to Ghana...I was wondering how I would be perceived here. Would there be opportunities for people to feel like they could disrespect me because I was a woman or because they thought I was African-American and not the typical "Obruni" that they have called my white colleagues who came before me.

My first day (which was really two days given the 24hr call situation) was a very pleasant experience. I felt welcomed by the team and was even treated like a senior resident by the juniors. Thank God for the great framework that Jenna and Katie left before me, because I sort of started meshing well with the residents from day 1. The junior residents would come up to me and run cases by me, even ask me to perform ultrasounds with them as they admit they are not that great at ultrasounds. I was asked my opinion a lot and at times asked "what would you do differently in America?"

I will admit...I bonded more quickly with the male residents than the two female residents on the team. One of the female residents (junior to me) even asked me to draw blood on our call shift. I overheard the senior resident asking her why I was drawing the blood, if it was because it was a difficult stick. But I knew she was just giving me a little hazing...its all good...I drew the blood with pleasure. We became fast friends after that.

This morning was day 4 but really my second full day with the residents. I was going to have breakfast with one of the junior residents who was really just escorting me because I had no idea where to go. On our walk, he started this conversation with me about what is my nationality, ethnicity, whatever.

I informed him that I was born in Jamaica but raised in the US. That I considered myself to be Jamaican, American, Black...whatever. Does it make a difference I asked him. And he responded in a very similar way that I have heard some caribbean people respond to African (Black) Americans. In short, he told me that African Americans are lazy in general and that they glorify playing basketball and sports and don't aspire to work hard and become physicians. He told me I was different because I was born in Jamaica and is like a first degree American because my parents were raised in Jamaica. He told me that people born in America with immigrant parents were also different. That they had a drive to do better and to take advantage of the opportunities in America and become doctors and lawyers etc.

He told me that African Americans were mad at Africans for selling them into slavery. He reflected on this time when he was doing an externship in Virginia and an African American throw something at him in the street and shouted something about "you sold us."

I quickly began to tell him that I didn't agree with this sentiment, though I understood where he was coming from because I have heard this sentiment before. I said, "I was raised in America and I'm a doctor." But he said I was different given my Jamaican heritage. I then began to tell him of all the amazing people that I knew that were straight up African Americans and were lawyers and doctors and not athletes. He looked at me with a little know that look that says I don't think you're a liar but I don't really believe you either.

I tried to convince him that his point of view was stereotypical and anecdotal at best. That there is another truth that he should seek to understand. I apologized for that person who threw something at him in the streets and tried to convince him that most Black people in America don't hate Africans because of slavery. He tried to understand my point of view. But this one conversation would not change his entire mind. But maybe it created a small peep hole...

I left this conversation too asking myself..."what are you Dr. Bennett?" I am a proud Jamaican and I love and cherish my Jamaican roots. But sometimes even Jamaicans say...ohh u left Jamaica when you were three...your American. So I also love and cherish my experienced being raised in America and call myself African-American too. You see...I dont get caught up into these categorization that we humans like to place on ourselves in order to perpetuate separation and discrimination. I AM BLACK. That's it.

When I got home that evening, I found two of my close friends online and quickly began to gchat this subject matter with them. Dominique is an American born, Bahamian heritage Lawyer; and Noelle is a American born, Jamaican heritage Educator/Administrator. I needed fellow Jamaican born, American raised partner in crime.

Lets just say it was a very interesting day...

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