When I was seven years old, I was introduced to the word ‘nigger’ for the first time. I was introduced to the racial dynamics of Barbados at the St. Angela’s Preparatory School of The Ursuline Convent, one of the stooshier private schools on the island–not the stooshiest, but definitely an elite private school.
Before this, I was sent to The Grace Hill Moravian Church School, later renamed to Lawrence T. Gay Primary School, where with my fair skin and bright red hair, I was told I was not Black, and a white girl, and a red goose, and a foreigner, and everyone from teachers to students made fun of and mispronounced my African name.
At home, these were non-issues, because I come from a family that run the gamut of human shading, from dark skinned all the way to light, bright and yes, quite white. My mother’s best friend was a Welsh white woman, who I adored and who helped to raise me. My first experience in public school where I wasn’t dark enough to please them, made me explore what was on the other side of the divide at the Convent. I was not prepared for what I found.
At the Convent, I got a very rude awakening at the hands of a quartet of little white girls who were the undisputed Queen Bees in our year, and later on the entire school. This quartet of evil: Louise Hadwen, the ringleader and the alpha female of the group, and the daughter of what I remember to be South African parents; Charmaine Ward, her equally as vicious lieutenant whose father was a local white business man; Leah King, who to this day I know next to nothing about other than what I am about to tell you, and really, that’s all I need to know about that cunt; and Lisa Pinto, the ultimate subject of this blog post, of whom all I remember about her biography, is that her mother was massively fat on a proportion I had never encountered before in my life to that date, and that she lived in Belleville.
These four girls tortured me almost relentlessly throughout my time at the Convent. They made fun of me, said and did cruel things, lorded their wealth, their colour and dubious class over me. Truthfully, not just me, almost everyone. There were of course other hangers on, that they deigned to allow to socialise with them, but they were mean, unkind girls. Anyone who was there when I was there and suffered the humiliation those girls doled out like the final arbiters in the sick, twisted environment that was the Convent, I dare you to disagree with me. These girls were blatantly racist, and that underpinned much of their cruelty, and although they associated with Black girls at school, those Black girls no doubt could tell you their own stories about what they had to endure, smile through and ignore, just to be counted as part of Louise Hadwen’s axis of evil.
I could recount dozens of stories, where these girls did me wicked, evil things, but why bother. It was 30 years ago, and I only recount my impressions and bring it up to lay the groundwork for the story I am about to begin in earnest.
Better yet, what follows is the letter I wrote to the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners. Unfortunately their badly designed web site, which has not been updated in what looks like 10 years, does not have any visible, clearly marked function allowing the public to communicate with them. This as a web developer seems to be largely defeating the purpose of having a web site at all, but that is neither here nor there. Let’s call it an open letter. I see no need to repeat writing, and this part of the story is better told in a formal, dispassionate way.
Attention: The President
Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners
Spring Garden Highway
December 5th, 2011
I am writing to lodge as formal a complaint against a medical practitioner I believe is a member of your organisation, Dr. Lisa Pinto.
Approximately two years ago, I went to offices Dr. Pinto shares with Dr. Greenidge whom I had chosen as my General Practitioner and who I have seen a number of times with my infant son.
On this visit, Dr. Greenidge was not in office, and I was suffering from what I knew to be a severe gas attack. I agreed to see Dr. Pinto alternatively, and I told her immediately that I knew it was bad gas, but felt I should come and see a doctor, as I had been in discomfort for more than 24 hours.
Dr. Pinto said to me that it was part of their ‘standard procedure’ to perform a series of tests to make sure that it wasn’t more serious. She led me to a smaller room, and hooked me up to a machine and performed the tests she said were necessary.
At the end of the visit, she said that there wasn’t anything she could prescribe and then presented me with a bill for approximately $300BDS.
I was horrified. At no time did Dr. Pinto inform me that there was a cost attached to the tests she described as ‘standard procedure’. As a self-employed web developer, there is no way that I could take it upon myself to arbitrarily perform work without discussing it fully with my client, explaining their options, the pros and cons, the costs involved and making a recommendation. Far less to submit an invoice for work not expressly authorised by my client. I am scrupulous to a fault in these matters, because when I submit my invoice I want to know I charged fairly for the services I provided. To do anything otherwise would be highly unethical and a blight to my fiercely held integrity.
This is why Dr. Pinto’s actions on this visit to her office were so odorous in nature. At the time, I paid her the standard fee for the visit, but refused to pay for the extra tests. Considering how inappropriate her actions were, I felt that was fair. As far as I was concerned, that was and should have been the end of it.
On Thursday, December 2nd, 2011 I took my son to Dr. Greenidge’s office and sat waiting for him. While waiting my son threw up twice, once in the waiting room and as I was taking him to the bathroom, right outside Dr. Pinto’s office. Never one to hold a person’s offensiveness against them–certainly I have known Dr. Pinto since childhood and she has been offensive bordering on and exceeding cruelty as long as I have know her–I smiled politely while holding my trembling son up and guiding him to the bathroom to care for him.
On our way back to the waiting room, Dr. Pinto, whose door was open at the time, called out to me, “Don’t forget you owe me all that money from your last visit.”
At the time, focused as I was on my ill child, I forgot what she was talking about. I was still supporting my five year old, and he was leaning on my heavily as I could see he was still feeling poorly.
She persisted, repeating that I owed her money for tests, and then, in a tone of voice one uses on errant children, she told me to come into her office and talk to her. I told her I need to see about my son, to which she deigned to acquiesce and I then returned to the waiting room, feeling accosted, put out and quite frankly shocked that one person could remain so callous despite achieving what outwardly appears to be maturity. It still hadn’t dawned on me what she was talking about, because the visit she was trying to claim fees on had happened two years previous. A lot has happened in the intervening time.
I sat down, trying to soothe my son, and continued to wait, because despite my intense dislike for Dr. Pinto, I cannot in all fairness say the feeling extended to Dr. Greenidge, who I have always found to be pleasant, courteous, gentle and respectful.
Shortly afterward, the receptionist began calling out across the waiting room asking me for my personal information: Address, phone number, etc. I felt it was with regard to my son’s visit. It wasn’t until she–the receptionist–appeared next to me and handed me a piece of paper did I realize what those questions were for.
She had presented me with an invoice for the tests Dr. Pinto insisted I must pay her for. At this point, I allowed my temper to show, because the penny finally dropped on what this was all about.
I protested the presentation of the invoice, I expressed the unethical nature of charging someone for tests without clearly stating the costs involved, and clearly said that I had case of gas, and that in no way does that justify charging me for useless tests that you previously stated was part of a ‘standard procedure’ and that I was deeply offended by the treatment I was receiving. Admittedly, I couched few of my words and my volume increased with my ire, but I never shrieked, cursed or in any other way attacked Dr. Pinto verbally.
Dr. Pinto had by this point—once the receptionist realised I would not be contained–come into the waiting room, and in her continuing condescending tone of voice told me to be quiet, to which I told her she was not allowed to shut me up. I make my living by my ability to express myself, and I would never allow anyone to take my voice or my right to express how I feel. Never.
I very pointedly put the invoice back on the receptionists desk, gathered my child, walked out into the pouring rain and left.
I am writing to you because, despite my wish to ‘let this go’, I find my training as a journalist will not allow me to do so. I plan to report this incident as far and wide as I can. It will be blogged. I will submit it as a letter to the editor to the major newspapers. I will submit it to underground blogs, I will link to it, search engine optimize it and share across my massive social network numbering in the thousands across dozens of sites, because like my father before me, I will not stand by and allow injustice to be done to me.
What Dr. Pinto has done to me is wrong, and I will not be silent about it. I do not know what you can do to address this matter, neither am I waiting for you to do so. I am merely writing to report this incident, and to lodge as formally and publicly as I can a complaint against Dr. Pinto’s treatment of me.
Thank you for your attention.
Now, this morning, December 17th, 2011, I have JUST hung up from a bailiff that that cunt had call me about the money for these tests.
I railed at the bailiff, apologised, but said I plan to fight this as far as it has to go. I refuse to allow Lisa Pinto to take advantage of me. This is not primary school where white is might, and it’s overlooked when you call people ‘nigger’, beat them up, kick their lunches over and all manner of wickedness. Don’t tell me bullshit about how it was 30 years ago and we were children. Lisa Pinto was seven or eight when I met her, and when they tell you about psychology they tell you: Who you are at six, is basically who you are your whole life. Lisa Pinto and the gang of devil spawn she ran with were doing cruel, mean things to me, my friends and other children not up to their ‘standards’ when they were 10 and 11. That’s old enough to know better. That the bitch tried this shit with me at this juncture in our lives, goes to show me that despite the skin-teet business her ass be running in Barbados because she DEPENDS on the ‘niggers’ to make a living, she is EXACTLY who she was and has failed to change her perspective.
I am sorry, Lisa Pinto is going to have to put me in court. When I get there, I will tell them: You cannot charge someone for work you took it upon yourself to perform without informing the client/patient/customer of the costs, reasons for performing the work and getting their EXPRESS approval to go ahead. In this instance, her continuing callousness, willingness to engage in unethical behaviour and the disregard she showed my child in his suffering as far as I am concerned earns her the biggest, “FUCK YOU” I can muster.
Goddammit, let’s roll.
I plan to make malpractice and Lisa Pinto synonymous fucking keywords via Google’s search robots, mates. The only way she is going to get one red fucking cent from me, is if the JUDGE says so, and I will continue to lodge my protests, because what she did was wrong and I ain’t going out like Lisa Pinto’s punk bitch. Those days are so far gone… forget my mother’s stooshy, bourgeois background; My father comes from the ghetto and I went to The Combermere School. That’s a double dose of “I not taking that!” (or “I’m going to kick your ass” depending on the circumstances… this incident might fall in the latter.)
Ya’ll know me, I talk when I vex, I have not a violent bone in my body, but there is a Warrior in my chest. She comes from the deep part of the ocean and She’s a ‘chop off their heads and ask questions later’ kind of warrior. She wears the heads of enemies on a belt around her waist. When you see Her, both arms hold swords and She’s got plenty more tools for separating you from mortal flesh. I am not Her. Her name is Yemaya Okute/Ogunde, and She is IN me. Because of Her, this is a fight I am willing to take on… injustice at seven when you are powerless to know how to deal with, is not the same as dealing with injustice at 37. These are different days, and Lisa Pinto will discover why it’s wrong to hold to a vein of cruelty and bullying. One day, the worm must turn and as we all know, is almost always packing a weapon. With Miko-san, the weapon is always her pen. And so it is.
UPDATE: There is a “Radio Edit” of this post on facebook if you wanted a less… ahm… ‘expressive’ version of this piece. It’s here.