Another installment from my bitchy essay about blindness. It should be noted that this incident I’m describing, and the writing about the incident, took place before I took organic chemistry and discovered that it was my academic subject soulmate.
It affects everything. As a blind person, you quickly learn all the coded ways that potential employers dress up, “I won’t hire you because you’re blind,” or the coded way potential dates dress up, “I don’t want to go out with you because you’re blind.” It often doesn’t matter how well you present yourself, how positive and open you are about discussing your blindness and showing that you do and feel and are the same things as other humans. There are still countless ways that people deny your full human dignity.
Recently, I faced another one of the job excuses; this time it was, “We can’t hire you because you haven’t taken organic chemistry.” I was interviewing for a medical scribe job, a common job for pre-med (at the time) biology majors like me. I went into my interview knowing I was super qualified. Along with a stellar academic record (a perfect 4.0) in the sciences, I had writing experience, even transcription experience, that I knew made me unique among the candidates, and my typing speed was well above the requirement. Plus, they were hiring a whole bunch of people, so it felt like a done deal.
When I took my resume and cover letter to the campus career center for any extra insight (I really wanted this job), the career counselor told me, “This job is yours.” I followed her advice, removing any hint at disability from my resume. And it worked, I got an interview.
The interview was all friendly. There were four people and they were all incredibly warm, if just a tad off. I might describe it as just this side of condescending, in a sweet way. There was something about their demeanor, even the warmth, that made me feel like they were indulging me. Like they thought I was a real sweet kid. It turned out they actually knew about my disability before I went in there, not because of anything on my resume or cover letter, but because they had found my blog (one of the reasons I don’t use my real name anymore).
Still, once the interview got started, it seemed okay, I knew I was answering the questions well, and I was able to hold onto hope. We talked about science and writing and I detailed my transcription experience and we talked about being able to spell anatomical and medical words correctly, another area in which I had no doubt of my abilities, as spelling had always come easily to me, and because it was an integral component of what had been tested in anatomy lab.
And then at the end, it happened, as it often does, but with a slightly different flavor this time. “You seem really qualified but we, well, it may not have been noted in the application but we’re really looking for someone who’s taken organic chemistry.” She went on to say that organic chemistry was so hard that students had a hard time maintaining a job at the same time as taking that beast of a class. It was logical and I could sort of convince myself they meant it, but I always had my suspicions. A week or so later, they called to officially tell me they weren’t going to hire me for one of their many open scribe positions.
Awhile later, I found out they hired someone I knew who didn’t have the same academic credentials, had no writing or transcription experience, didn’t have the requisite typing speed, and also hadn’t taken organic chemistry. And she was right, I double-checked, having organic chemistry wasn’t mentioned as a requirement anywhere in the job description or application packet. It’s hard sometimes not to be really bitter. It’s also hard sometimes not to give up, resign myself to alien status.
I want to follow up on this a little and say there were so many times that I wanted to email them afterward and say, “Oh, I heard you’re hiring people without organic chemistry now, can I reapply?” or something to that extent. Just to not let them get away with somewhat blatant discrimination, or at least to sneakily let them know that I knew exactly what they were doing. I’ll be honest, I wanted to make them feel guilty, or at the least, uncomfortable. I kinda wanted to make them tell me the fucking truth (which of course, they couldn’t and wouldn’t, since it’s illegal).
I thought about reapplying after I finished organic chemistry. I wanted to tell them that I had taken organic chemistry all year, a year of calculus-based physics at the same time, and molecular biology, and human genetics, and on and on, taking an overly full courseload every term that I took o chem, and that I worked that whole year (at a science-based job as a tutor) and was able to maintain my commitment to that job, excel at it, and maintain my 4.0. I wanted to throw it in their faces how wrong they were about me and apply again, having surpassed all their meager expectations.
I never did any of that, mostly because I soon found another job (which I still have) which I LOVE and which pays a lot better, so fuck them, it’s their loss. But partly because I believed that even with all that, no matter how much I showed them that I had excelled in class while holding a science-related job, they still wouldn’t hire me. If they made one phony excuse, they could make up another.
I was a little bitter, and to be honest, when I think about it, even though it’s been awhile, I still get upset. What sucks is I still really need some sort of clinical experience in one form or another, and this (and other) experiences has just made me so much more reluctant to seek one out. I just don’t want to keep going through this kind of discrimination. It’s exhausting, and stressful, and it really takes a toll, just the buildup of all the frustration, and sometimes, the hopelessness that comes along with experiencing this over and over.
Sometimes it’s hard to even write about because I don’t want to deal with the potential of people siding with the company and feeling they were right to deny me. Sometimes, I’m just so burnt out from dealing with this day in and day out in little and big ways every fucking day of my life and I just want a break from having a disability and having to deal with and absorb everyone’s misconceptions and ignorance and, at times, cruelty.
Still, when I think about it this job interview, I get mad. So I put it in writing. Sometimes putting discrimination or ignorant remarks in writing is how I get revenge. Even if people don’t agree with me. Even if I can’t name the place that did this. Even though they’ll probably never see this. But if they do, they’ll know it’s them, and I’ll know.
Okay, rant over. Sorta.
This essay addresses the central thought that sometimes, as a blind person, I don’t feel seen as fully human. And that takes its toll over time. I worry that it’s all too bitchy. No one likes an angry disabled woman (or insert any minority label here), right? But you know what? When I have to deal with ignorant shit on a daily basis, maybe it makes me more of a bitch. So what?