The Encounter

By Kate, a 27 yr old Californian and has been an activist for 15 years.

I get physical therapy twice a week. Usually people in physical therapy(being tortured) have a decent sense of camaraderie, because it sucks across the board.  No one cares what race, religion, political party anyone else is.  We are all in the same boat when it comes to PT.  Pain is a universal human experience after all.  So, as I walk into the main “Gym” area, I found myself shocked to hear a man (we’ll call him DB) tell his therapist that he won’t lie down next to a younger girl wearing a Hijab (we’ll call her S).
Now, keep in mind what this scene looks like. We have a slender girl in a pretty blue and gold Hijab lying flat on her back with a brace from her ankle to her hip, getting a heating pad laid over her knee by a PT assistant for her post therapy pain relief/relaxation session. Standing by the little cot/bed/table thing is a white guy, probably in his 40s who looks pretty fit. Like he was there for a sports injury or something.  He looks like a normal human being, and you would never know that he was politely packaged racism until he opened his damn mouth.  

DB: “I don’t want to lay down next to a terrorist.  If you hook her to a Tens machine the electrical charge will make the plastique she’s hiding blow us all up.” 

He said this very loudly, like he was trying to make a scene and humiliate this girl who was doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO HIM.  Well, I loathe bullies.  But if this guy wanted a scene, I would oblige him gladly.  Admittedly, It helped that his behavior made me furious.  

Me:  “How dare you say that to her! How dare you treat her like that!  She is my sister on this earth, and you do not get to belittle her!  Not while I’m here.”  I pointed at the huge, gaudy (see ugly) cross he was wearing.  “Do not stand there wearing the symbol of my loving messiah, that was sent by my loving God and treat her that way.  You will not use my religion and my faith as a platform for your hate.  How can you stand over someone who is no threat, who is hurt and defenseless, and accuse HER of being a terrorist.  Shame on you.  SHAME ON YOU!!! “ 
I was angry enough that I can’t recall everything I said, but the end of my impassioned rant was as follows.

Me:  “You don’t have to lay next to her.  I will.  And I’ll stay next to her until your hateful ass leaves.”  I proceeded to do so.  I did my stretching right next to her.  As we chatted I discovered she had been in a car accident.  Her leg was broken in seven places.  Her brother was killed in the accident.  Before she left we exchanged phone numbers. 

Her parting words to me were  “Thank you, my brother used to be my protection, but he’s gone now.”
 I made a friend and got to yell at DB. Despite the pain, it was a good day in PT.


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  • Lourdes Obyrne
    commented 2017-02-12 22:00:12 -0500
    Soooo Awesome! Thanks for being an inspiration, and giving me tools for what one can do when faced with such ignorance and hate. Sometimes the reaction and rage get in the way of doing something productive. Thanks again!
  • Pat Alviso
    commented 2017-02-07 14:17:16 -0500
    I am so happy to read this and it sure it good to know, that even in places we think of as safe and where we can get help, there are women standing up to the hate that can hide anywhere. Thank you, Kate. You are my shero! paz
  • Arlene Conley
    commented 2017-02-07 12:28:14 -0500
    Kate is brave. Public acts of justice and goodness are the acts that will save our nation and the world. I look forward to having occasion to face down a bully with such ferocity. Today, I feel less afraid. Thank you, Kate. You are loved.