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Afraid to stay on the phone too long

May 7, 2010

I recently talked with a Latina student who explained how nervous her job reference person was when he (a Hispanic man) received a call about her.  “He gets anxious because sometimes he gets calls that aren’t legitimate.” When her prospective employer called him, he abruptly made an excuse that he couldn’t talk right then and said he would call back.  Then he called her to check out that the call was on the level and to calm the instinctual anxieties that arose before he returned the call.  This made me curious so I asked some more questions.

“He gets nervous on the phone, worried about his language skills, and saying the right thing,” said the student.  “He doesn’t always trust that the caller has good intentions.” Then we talked about the new law passed in Arizona allowing police to stop anyone they “reasonably suspect” is undocumented. The student noted how a culture of fear exists not only for immigrants who have become U.S. citizens (like the person who was her reference), but people born in this country who are of mixed descent.

Later that day I talked with a Filipino woman who immigrated to the U.S. when she was eight years old. I told her the story about the student and she nodded in understanding.  “My mom was always fearful of talking on the phone and wanted to get off as quickly as possible.”

This awareness has created a daily practice for me.  Every time I answer the phone, I seek to remember that because of the color of my skin and the language I speak, I am not afraid.  I am a part of the norm and those who are not suffer consequences. Everyday, there are others who answer the phone with hesitancy and anxiety and who seek to not stay on the phone too long.

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