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.


Kelly Im said...

Monica to Maria...
I get Kelly to Kim every year. Kim is a common Korean last name but I don't know if that is the reason people think it's Kim or maybe it's because of my first initial and my last name. -> K.Im

Post a Comment