I drove by a childcare center the other day, memories roiled up in my mind and brought back my first experience with discrimination.
It was my 16th birthday. I was thrilled to finally be old enough to go out and get a part-time job. I loved working with children, so my goal was to work at a daycare center.
I felt extremely nervous when I walked into my first prospective place of employment. The smell of sweaty, playful kids flooded my nose as I asked to speak with the manager. A friendly employee lead me to an office and asked me to wait while she located the boss.
After a few moments, a woman came in, barely making eye contact with me, and began speaking quickly as she dug through her file cabinet looking for an employment application. I interrupted her as kindly as possible and explained that I am not able to hear well and needed to read her lips when she spoke. Her body tense up as she stopped digging and turned to look at me for the first time. She examined me closely, spending extra time on my ears, then asked “if you cannot hear, how can you take care of children?“.
I still haven’t forgotten the shock and pain that coursed through my body when I heard those words. I quickly composed myself and gently explained that my other senses worked extra well and that being the oldest of 6 children, I was quite capable of caring for youngsters (oh if I could only have had the nerve to say what I REALLY wanted to say…). Awkward silence followed my words as she eyed me skeptically, unconvinced. She then asked “are you available to come in the evenings, after the children go home to clean the bathrooms?”
Rest assured, I declined the job proposal. I would love to go back there and show her a picture of my 5 beautiful, healthy bilingual children.