Did You Hear The One About The Bigoted Patient?
The current paranoid hysteria of our country toward protecting our borders from illegal aliens, mainly those of color, has caused the revisit of an abscess on our national soul. Racial and ethnic slurs and jokes are back.
Following the civil rights battles of the 1960s, it became unacceptable to offend racial minorities. We did not have strict laws against racial jokes like other more developed countries such as the Netherlands but insulting jokes or comments seemed to cease.
I have a strict rule in my office that racial jokes and ethnic slurs are forbidden. Employees who forget this rule get one warning and then I terminate them. I remind patients of the rule if necessary and throw them out of the practice if they break the rule. It is my obligation as the boss to ensure the dignity of all of my patients and employees. I take this obligation very seriously.
Last week, one of my longtime patients chose to ignore the rule. He commented to my new receptionist that he never ate rice because it would make his eyes slant. My receptionist is of Asian descent. She let him know she did not appreciate his comment but he made it again. She became hurt and offended, and left the room.
I heard about the incident after the patient left the office and called him. He is a man in his early 50s who seemed intelligent. However, he has always tended to be crude and has made my female staff uncomfortable in the past.
I reached him on his cell phone and let him know he was no longer welcome in my clinic because of his behavior. I let him know I feel obligated to protect my patients and employees from jokes and comments that are focused on racial bias, religious bias or any other kind of stereotypical bias.
The patient explained that he was just trying to be humorous and wanted to know how I would protect him from offensive comments. I told him that if any of my employees made jokes or comments about stupid, inbred rednecks, I would feel obligated to protect him.
I said goodbye and hung up. I then dictated a letter letting him know he was dismissed from my care and why. To make it legal, I agreed to continue his care in another (more expensive) facility for the next 30 days.
My office is a place where a racial or religious slur is likely to offend someone. My partner is a Mormon and married to a lovely Mexican lady. My office manager’s daughter has an African-American father. My receptionist is Asian. My son is married to a Korean lady and I have a beautiful granddaughter from that union. I am an Irish Catholic and don’t mind really funny Catholic joke if they are told by Catholics. Priests and nuns tend to know the best jokes.
I really don’t want our country to return to the values we had in the 1950s. We have come too far during the past 50 years to regress. The protection of our borders is important but we need to realize that if the Native Americans had really effective immigration laws, most of us would not live here.
America is a great melting pot where the talents and values of many races and cultures are blended. Xenophobic reaction to recent tragic terrorist attacks by fundamentalist radical wack cases will damage what has made our country great. The first place to stop this dangerous trend is to establish and enforce strict rules against racial or religious jokes and slurs in your homes and in your clinics.
My receptionist regained her dignity as she sealed the envelope and mailed the letter telling my former patient he was fired from our practice and why.
That night, I called my two-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter, who lives in Seoul, to tell her I love her. She giggled and told me she loved me too. Then she began chattering to me in Korean. She figures I should know the language by now since I spent a couple of weeks over there visiting her last month.
As I contemplate the wonderful people in my life, the most beautiful thing is the diversity of cultures and ethnicity.
I need to learn more Korean words quickly.
Dr. McCord (pictured) is a Diplomate with the American Board of Podiatric Surgery. He practices at the Centralia Medical Center in Centralia, Wash.