You are what you pass for.

New York, NY.

I had an interesting experience at a Family Health Center today. I was experiencing trouble at home with applying for health care online and sought help finishing the application with a woman named Carmen who specializes in enrolling people. She said my ethnicity was in question and that it was affecting my eligibility.

She asked me if I was Spanish or white. I said, white, but quarter Spanish.
She asked where my parents were born. I said, Brooklyn & Bronx. Then she determined I was full white because I’m American.

I asked Carmen, “So your grandchildren are white?” She said, “Excuse me?” Carmen was of Spanish descent with an obvious accent.

I said, “I think you’re confused, my nationality is American. A person’s ethnicity is not determined by nationality. There are a wide range of ethnicities here in the U.S.”

Then she said, “No. You can answer however you may like, but you’re white.”
I said, “Yes, I’m white, but nobody is a full breed anymore. People can be mixed races, but what counts is how you look I guess? What you pass for. What am I? Each grandparent is from a different country.” I felt shame for saying claiming you I was.

It was a ridiculous conversation that was insignificant. I had to leave early to go to my Dr appt and when I returned she said she put my application through and that I wasn’t eligible for health insurance. That was upsetting for me because I am going through a rough financial time in my life with a serious health issue.

I went home and called the NYS marketplace and a very nice person helped me finish my application on the phone and I am now eligible for health insurance. What was the most interesting was that my eligibility had nothing to do with ethnicity, it had to do with showing proof of income or show last paycheck. I scanned those in and now all is good. On top of that, she submitted my application empty.

I don’t know how many people she refused to help or had a similar race conversation with, but it is extremely unprofessional and a horrible feeling to be at the mercy of someone who you need help from. I felt very uncomfortable in her presence, like she had already written me off or assumed who I was, but was saccharine sweet to people who spoke with a Spanish accent.

As someone who views dating a racist as a deal breaker I felt like saying, you’re picking on the wrong person, your anger is misdirected. But I don’t need her validation. I don’t lump all Spanish people as awful like that woman, I know better. I know that the only point they are making is useless and from anger. I just feel sad that people perpetuate a cycle they hate. If you don’t want racism in your life, then why are you making it a part of your life?


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