Not One of Them

Earlier this week I came across two co-workers sitting down to discuss work matters. I didn't think much of them going down their list of names of clients and I continued to mind my own business and do my work until they came across a name they didn't know how to pronounce. 

The man said something along the lines of "The guy's name sounds so Indian. When you see his name you wouldn't think he knows any English but you talk to him on the phone and you would think he was one of us. He's probably a 3rd generation or something because his English was perfect. Imagine if we had to deal with his father or grandfather instead." 

First off, if he had known I was Indian, would he still have said this? What made this man think that it was socially acceptable for him to make this comments and why would he assume that someone with an ethnic last name wouldn't know English? Also, "...you would think he was one of us." What exactly is that supposed to mean? It bothers me that in such a diverse society ethnic minorities are still looked down upon by some.

A couple of weeks ago another incident occurred. I took my mother to see a doctor and the nurse kept directing all questions and comments to me rather than her. When she did speak to my mother she spoke very loudly and slowly, assuming she wouldn't be understood. This nurse was shocked when she was told that my mother has been in this country for almost 25 years and worked at the headquarters of a major company for 20 of those years, but still continued to ask me all the questions referring to my mother as 'she' although my mom was the one answering all of the questions. 

It angers me when the people we encounter on a daily basis assume that someone with a different name or accent does not fit in to society. The truth is, people have a certain view on who is the 'average American'. So if these people were to change their opinion on who is considered and average American to not just someone of European descent, but anyone who is culturally or ethnically different than them, wouldn't that solve the problem?