Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Hello, my name is not Maria

During the summer of 2006 I worked for a mega store (logo: target). It was my first job and I was eager to work. I strolled through the "employees only" double doors, punched in my employee number and walked out to my department, the Garden Center. I traveled from the cool,air conditioned inside to the hot, sticky outside. I started to search for the head honcho but another employee...or should I co-worker...informed me that Betty was coming. I assumed this would be my supervisor.

I waited for about five minutes and then Betty showed up. She told me that I had to water the plants, wash off some dirt from tables, and "zone." Later I would get trained on the register and then I would have to take some tests on my knowledge of plants. ha!

This conversation seemed to run short but after she finished assigning my tasks, she asked my name.
I told her "Monica."
She said, "For some reason I feel like calling you Maria."
I went blank.
I thought to myself, "What does that mean? Is she being stereotypical? Not all Mexican women are named Maria. Hello?! I didn't call you Ashley! Don't call me Maria!"
Then she had the audacity to say "I'm not very good with names. But I learned Kevin's quickly."
[Kevin is white and Betty is too.]
I said "Hmm."
She left and I thought "I hate this."

So for the next month and a half that I worked at this store, I hated it. Well except for the time when I was at the front registers inside the store. I was on the express lane and I had a record of 137 transactions for about 2 hours. I was good! And fun, fast and friendly!

I learned that people, like Betty, are stereotypical. She saw a short brown girl and she automatically typecasted me. She put a name to a face, my face. This had stopped bothering me until another more recent event.

I was called Maria by a high school classmate. I was out with two friends Christmas Break of 2008. We were sitting in Johnny's Burgers at the Riverside Plaza. I was passionately describing the Twilight Saga to them and they were attentively listening.

Our classmate comes in and says "Hi Maria!!!"

I couldn't say a word.

My friends looked at me. Then looked at her. Then looked back at me. I didn't correct her. I couldn't do it because she began talking about all the things she had done after high school. I wasn't listening completely due to the fact that I was shocked. One of my friends began talking to her and the other one was just looking at me as I stared back at her.

I was most surprised this time. I could expect to be called by a person who didn't know me and that was of a white skinned race. But I didn't expect it from a bi-racial peer of mine.

Regardless of skin color, all people brush away details. Either that or everyone stereotypes. You choose, just call me by my real name.