Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Cultural Sensitivity Gone Wrong

This week a writer for ESPN was fired for writing this headline

"Chink In the Armor"

  This was in reference to the New York Knicks newest sensation Jeremy Lin and the Knicks loss that evening in the wake of an incredible run that began with Asian American Lin's amazing off the bench performance that saw the team enjoy a winning streak the team had not seen before in years.  The headline ran on ESPN's website article that detailed the Knicks loss and Lin's less than spectacular performance that night until outraged readers complained believing that the word "chink" was being used as a pun and racial slur. One writer lost his job for this oversight and the reporter has been suspended for 30 days.

  I won't fill this post with links to all the articles that have be written about this headline because I couldn't fit them all in one post. Much heated debate has taken place about this headline, many people are offended.  Miriam Webster defines "chink" as "a weak spot that may leave one vulnerable"  not immediately as racial slur and might I be so radical as to say that perhaps that is how this headline should have been read. 

  But this brings me to my point. All through nursing school we have had cultural sensitivity crammed down our throats and now in the work world we are being constantly being harried by someone in management about being culturally sensitive. But are we now just fostering a need to be hyper-vigilant to anything that could possibly be translated as a racial injustice? I notice nurses around me being worried about how to take care of a patient who's culture is foriegn to them lest they make a mistake and get hauled into HR for being insensitive. Being Asian myself I have found that on more than one occasion people were offended on my behalf whereas I didn't even notice the alleged slight. Case in point is this little interaction I had seen with a nurse and patient while in school.

Patient: Nurse have you seen that nice student nurse who has been helping me today?

Nurse: Well Sir we have about ten student nurses here today, which one were you looking for?

Patient: That nice Oriental girl

Nurse: Sir! That is horrible language!

Patient: What is? I didn't say anything mean.

Nurse: Sir Oriental is a derogatory term and very offensive, the correct word is Asian.

Patient: Since when was Oriental a bad word? 

Nurse: Sir! Oriental is a RUG not a Person!

  The nurse obviously meant well in trying to be sensitive to my culture, but seriously did she need to berate an 80 year old man? And she never once asked if I was offended by being referred to as "Oriental", which I was not.  My belief is that the intent behind what is said is much more important than a persons choice of words. I also believe that while a respect for a persons culture is important in our ever globalizing world that this trend to hyper sensitivity is not helping anyone. My belief is that as nurses we should strive to treat everyone as with dignity and respect, and in doing this we can transcend cultural difference because we acknowledge each other as human beings. 

1 comment:

Hi! I love to hear what you have to say but be warned I reserve the right to whip out the Iron Paw on anyone. So play nice.