Layer 1

‘Why should I live my life carrying around your racist words?’

"It is high time that we shift the onus of spoken words to the person who utters them."

Racist microaggressions are often overlooked, despite occurring frequently. Just because they are small, we shouldn’t ignore them, says locum pharmacist Aisha

Racism in healthcare is inescapable and I have had my own personal experiences of it. Many of them are so painful that sometimes I live in fear of those experiences crossing my path again.

However, I don’t want anyone to live through the same experiences I did, and so I want to relive them here today so people are aware what racism can look like.

I started my career in UK as a dispenser. I was interviewed for one job by the pharmacist there and they were happy with my knowledge and skills, so I was offered the role. An additional requirement for that job was to be a polyglot. This made me ideal for the role, as I can speak five languages and can read and write in seven.

My then-area manager made me walk five miles on foot to go leafletting to promote the pharmacy’s services just because, with my language skills, I would be able to speak to people on the way. One of many tasks assigned to me was to hold a placard directing patients towards the pharmacy because the manager assumed I was bad at speaking English and this was the best I could do to direct patients to the pharmacy.

He used to prompt pharmacists right in front of me to ask me if I knew what Atorvastatin was. I was a qualified pharmacist from abroad, but not being registered in the UK at that time did not mean I had less knowledge.

I lasted there for six months because, gradually, the number of strange tasks assigned to me became worse. Fetching food for staff and covering up for the other people working there was also part of my job.

I quit. I did not talk to anyone about that experience because it was horrific – until today.

I moved on, having qualified as registered pharmacist in the UK, and among the many high-quality experiences, the following sad, painful racist incidents have also stayed with me.

Firstly, micro-aggressions like: “Oh, your English is really good”. I was deemed to be bad at communication and valued less just because of the way I look.

“Are you the pharmacist? Oh, I didn’t think so”. Again, low value assignment.

“I will slit your throat because you are not providing me with medicines”.  

“Are you understanding me? Because you’re just looking at me as if you don’t understand me”. That was said to me when I was paying attention to a patient who was trying to explain their problem and I was practicing the “Golden Minute” rule to gather all the information from the patient I needed to help them.

“So, you fast and don’t eat or drink anything all day? That is really stupid”. Three different colleagues have used exact same word: stupid. Me practicing my faith does not harm anyone. Being called stupid for my faith is painful.

My colleagues once told a patient that I had just left for my break around 3pm and that I would be back in 40 minutes. The patient responded: “Well, get her out of her break. I am coming back in ten minutes to collect my medicines”. Breaks for me are a bad idea, apparently.

Constantly having my valued ideas rejected, being asked to be more verbal and crack jokes to keep people happy; even after I had qualified as a pharmacist in the UK, it being assumed that I was still the dispenser and my dispenser was the pharmacist.

All these examples of institutionalised, personalised and internalised racism are far less acknowledged than how often they actually happen. These shocking, traumatic and harrowing encounters highlight the reality that racism is far more prevalent than we are actually able to admit.

As painful as it has been for me to go through these incidents, I believe it is high time that we shift the onus of spoken words to the person who utters them, rather than letting the person on the receiving end have the onus of living with those words.

Aisha is a locum pharmacist, who does not wish to share her surname

Tell C+D about your experiences off racism in the pharmacy by completing this short survey

19 Comments

Alexander Dale, Dispenser Manager/ Dispensing Assistant

I face racism and/or xenophobia on a fairly frequent basis, averaging weekly. Instead of running to the C&D and crying about 'micro-aggressions', you know what I do? I man up (NOT a sexist term, I'll thank you), deal with it and get on with the job. I find that the British public are very often completely unintentionally xenophobic and that there's no malice behind it at all. Indeed, if one were to point out their behaviour as xenophobic or racist, the vast majority would be horrified. Perhaps a more mature, better measured response or reaction is required from folks like Aisha (and myself), rather than just screaming 'RACISM' at every opportunity.

Mihaela Isarii, Community pharmacist

Thank you for writing about your experiences of racism in the workplace. The comment attempting to invalidate what you went through proves how necessary it is for pharmacy professionals to start having these conversations, to start identifying racist and xenophobic views, and to acknowledge the fact that it is not fair for anyone to have to go through the awful experience of being treated like they're less worthy of respect or consideration because of their race or nationality.

Axed Locum, Locum pharmacist

"It helps when rule of law exists and individuals beliefs and rights are strongly protected" - Absoulety correct, but even with legislation, will it get rid of the problem?? Highly unlikely, because those with powers to enforce the law will never do it, as they are on the balance of probability institutionally racists, and the country is structurally racist.Purely from a race perspective, one justneeds to look at the treatment of the "Mixed-Race" ex Dutchess of Sussex, from the media and a section of the population!

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

I think Mrs Markles' colour has nothing to do with how the media treat her, but how she acts and behaves. We will soon find out with more info appearing everyday what a very rude, nasty bully she is.  She goes through staff like normal people change underwear!  Look up the incident in Australia of throwing tea over an aide, allegedly at the moment.

Don't excuse her attitude of me,me,me just because she is mixed-race, it has nothing to do with it.   

More will appear soon with the impending independent investigation but there is plenty of stuff online to read by quite independent sources with no axe to grind. 

She is a deluded, sociopathic narcissist, a psychologist's dream case study, with a puppet for a husband, and this will not end well for Harry.

She will never come to the UK again, not even when the Queen passes on, Philip specifically said he didn't want her at his funeral.  It was nothing to do with flying. She fly to her first baby shower in New york, when much more heavily pregnant. 

The truth about this woman will be out before long. 

Axed Locum, Locum pharmacist

As i said, i was looking from the race perspective, and comparing the media input on the Duchess of Cambridge, who can never seem to put a foot wrong, alternatively absolutely perfect, How plausible is that?? Surely bias based on race? 

As an aside, Dr Martin Luther king in public speech that was delivered  during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963, in which he called for civil and economic rights and an end to racism in the United States 57 years 10 months ago, and where are we now?? . Perhaps we will have to wait for several light years, or until we are one big "mixed race"

And what is the excuse for denying social security and access to heatch care, housing and other benefits to the "wind-rush" immigrants?? - Pure racial bias, not much different to how Aisha's treatment, by fellow colleagues, incuding a Pharmacist!!!

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

PS.  America had a black/mixed-race president for 8, yes EIGHT years, What did he do to futher all the causes you talk off? Nothing. Built cages.  " Who built the cages Joe?"  OBAMA.

I have lived and worked in the USA. and I can tell you, even after 8 years of a person of colour running the country, black African-americans are WORSE off when he was president. 

I don't want to go too much more into politics, but if you check American statistics, it was the previous president Donald Trump who got black and hispanic unemployment down to the lowest ever in history. This is a recorded fact. 

You have a good day now. 

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

It was a LABOUR government who destroyed all the WR generation documents, without checking they had been made digital.  You won't hear that on the BBC.  

 

And I know all about the speech of a man being judged by his character not his colour from thr 60s.

Well MM has a terrible terrible character allegedly. We will know soon when the report comes out from people, the aides, who, as Oprah would say were  SILENCED with NDAs, because she's allegedly awful to work for.  

Plus Catherine if you look back, was treated terribly by the media in the 00s, ' Waity Katie '   Remember that phrase they trotted out every day, because she wanted to make sure she could cope with Royal life, which was a good thing, when sadly, Diana, as a 19 year old wasn't given that chance, as she was definitely too young to deal with it all starting at age 20. 

So don 't try and say Catherine didn't get media hate because she got a huge amount. 

I'm not going to debate MM anymore with you, you obviously for some reason, can see no wrong in her, which in my opinion, is wrong. We will see soon. 

Axed Locum, Locum pharmacist

I don't agree with your arguments, partly as it strays away from the core subject, and i dispute your alleged facts.  Agree to disagree and end!

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

Fair enough Axed! 

E simon, Community pharmacist

Actually, I recognise many of Aisha's experiences, and one thing springs to mind:  many of those remarks would not have been levelled at a man...

Sexism is an everyday occurrence in my working life.

Giedrius Vaiciulis, Community pharmacist

I am not of different religion and look more or less like locals, but I could tell countless stories of "mini" racism and xenophobia. I totally feel for Aisha and agree with her. Indigenous people most of the time dont even understand they are being xenophobic or racist. 

Mark Boland, Pharmaceutical Adviser

"Indigenous people most of the time dont even understand they are being xenophobic or racist"

Unfortunately, xenophobia occurs in every country in the world. So much so, it might be considered to be part of the human condition. A small number of studies (asking questions such as whether you would want to live next door to somebody of a different race, culture or nationality) suggest that some parts of the world are much worse than others, the differences between the most and least being very large. Western Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are amongst the least worse according to these studies.

It helps when countries are racially, ethnically and culturally diverse - over time people learn about each other and become less ignorant (a slow process). It helps when rule of law exists and individuals beliefs and rights are strongly protected. It helps to have a free society where people can freely access information and discuss it openly without fear.

Whatever the conditions of a particular country, ultimately it is the responsibilty of the individual to be polite, respectful and informed. Some people are not brought up with manners or to have respect and many are too lazy and ignorant to learn about other people. In the UK these people are a significant minority, often belonging to a wider underclass. Dealing with these people in the retail sector is complicated by the fact that they are customers and so in the eyes of most pharmacy employers, more important than you. 
 

 

Axed Locum, Locum pharmacist

Where is your evidence to support your statement, that in the U.K. people who are ignorant and lazy to learn about other people are a minority. There has been inward immigration into this country for over 100 years, and only accelerated in the last 50, mainly from the countries that were colonised. Therefore over the years there has been an increased interaction between people of different cultures, religions, and with integrated schooling the attitudes have not changed much. There is still an element of people with "superiority complex" amongst the indegenious population, which i believe is unjustified in this day and age.

You just need to analyse the election results across the pond to notice the racial division between people in that country!!, which is not very dis-similar to the U.K., and Europe in composition and history.

 

 

.  

Mark Boland, Pharmaceutical Adviser

"You just need to analyse the election results across the pond to notice the racial division between people in that country!!, which is not very dis-similar to the UK and Europe in composition and history"

Each country has its own problem with racism and xenophobia. The US has it owns unique history, as do European countries. Countries in Asia and the Middle East have severe problems with racism and xenophobia. So it is an international problem. The UK has been slow to change, but compared to 50 years ago, it has improved.

Community pharmacy treats its employees terribly, employers rarely concerning themselves with the well-being of their staff, always concerned with making sure the customer gets what they want. In that environment, how will an employee from a minority group hope to be supported in the face of racism? They rarely confront a customer about their behaviour in any situation.

Axed Locum, Locum pharmacist

Countries in Asia and Middle East are mainly dictatorships, and are not a fair comparison against what can be expected in the west.Secondly  and rule of law, and access to fair justice are almost non-existent. In terms of treatment of employees by these corporates, they are comparatively much harsher on the minority group!!

Mark Boland, Pharmaceutical Adviser

'Countries in Asia and Middle East are mainly dictatorships'

The racism in Asia, Middle East and Africa does not originate from dictatorship, but rather from caste systems or tribal systems or skin tone prejudices within a race. I know, I have lived and worked in such countries.

'and are not a fair comparison against what can be expected in the west'

Surely this is racism of low expectations? All individuals are responsible for how they treat other individuals, regardless of what country they live in. Racism is an evil that has to begin and so end with the individual. 

 

Mark Boland, Pharmaceutical Adviser

"Where is your evidence to support your statement, that in the U.K. people who are ignorant and lazy to learn about other people are a minority"

I will never be able to produce evidence to prove any exact proportion, as I can never know what is in the minds of every individual in the UK. It will always be an estimate based on inexact proxies. In the same way you cannot prove it is not a significant minority or that 'attitudes have not changed much' over the last 100 years (which seems improbable).

I could be wrong, maybe the majority are xenophobic, racist, ignorant and lazy to learn. It just isnt what I observe in this country.

I have lived in Asia for 3 years and I experienced racism towards myself and observed agregious racism towards indigenous members of society (because of caste / skin tone) that was totally unchallenged. That gave me context about the UK, a flawed culture with a significant problem with racism and xenophobia but certainly trying to improve.

Dee dee, Community pharmacist

 

Viewed a possible criticism of her English as racist. 

Viewed praise of her English as racist. 
 

Viewed non-racist patient rudeness that we are all subject to as racist. 
 

Multiple examples of 'racism' throughout this article are anything but. Bad manners? Yes. Racist? No. 

 

 

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

Dee Dee, I think the media make it worse. British people are generally kind and welcoming. In pharmacy i have worked with people from Pakistan, Cameroon, Nigeria, South Africa, Australia, and none of them have ever told me that they have had a terrible time here. 

It's like the media are trying to start a culture and race war, along the lines of the Floyd case, against a man 5 times over the lethal dose of fentanyl. What happened was wrong, but I'm sure he would have died in the back of the police car/ambulance anyway for swallowing his wrap.

I'm sure many disagree, but as we are all mostly pharmacists here, think of that for a moment, FIVE times the LETHAL dose.  If only he hadn't passed a dodgy bill or refused to get in the police car and swallowed a huge wrap dose of fentanyl, he would still be with us. 

But I am against the brutality used, I'm not a monster, as I'm sure some of you reading this will think. But even with the tolerance he would have built up, I doubt, he would have survived, knee or no knee. 

Job of the week

Pharmacist Manager
Midlands, Cheshire & Dorset
Salary dependent upon experience