My friend was in terrible pain on her right side
It was so bad that her husband had driven her to the emergency unit at the local hospital.
She spent several very uncomfortable nights there, and waited a long time for any conclusive diagnosis.
The doctors were puzzled.
It couldn’t be diverticulitis because it was on her right side, and my friend’s family heritage is white European.
At least, that’s the assumption the doctors made just by looking at her face.
What they didn’t know what that she also had a small percentage of central Asian heritage. She knew that, but no one else had actually asked.
It seems that for people of Asian descent the pain often shows up on the right.
That false assumption and subsequent late diagnosis by doctors may have led to her being in pain for much longer than she needed to be.
We all have mixed heritage in one way or another. And so when we make unconscious assumptions about people without looking at the individual behind a given stereotype – or, as happens as lot today, behind a popular headline – we not only risk causing hurt and harm but we also miss an opportunity to learn.
Refugees, people seeking the safety of asylum, people fleeing economic chaos… We owe them more than an assumption. They are part of our beautiful, diverse human community.
Curiosity leads to rich conversation that teaches us so much about each other, and shows us a new reflection of ourselves in the stories we uncover.