Maria Frazier loved her job.
Last week, Maria and her mother drove to the AFSCME office on Burnside to talk to us about the events following her discovery of a small noose in her workplace. During our conversation, she kept coming back to that — she loved her job. She was good at it. She helped patients.
That’s what makes the events following the noose incident painful. In the long run, Maria’s love for her job didn’t seem to matter very much to the people who were responsible for ensuring that OHSU is a safe, harassment-free workplace.
She recalled the events of that day: “I was walking through the office and ran into the practice administrator. I showed him the noose and he said he had to take it down. He hadn’t seen it before. There were other people in the office but they didn’t say anything or remark on it. I was with a coworker and she said this was unacceptable. [The practice administrator] took it down and I walked to my desk. I showed my immediate supervisor the picture and she said that it wasn’t there yesterday. She was surprised. “
“I went to my desk and called my family and [called] a friend and showed her the photo (I emailed her the photo). They were shocked. I told her that I felt uncomfortable and I was going to be leaving. My family told me I could get an escort if I feared for my safety. I just left without an escort.”
Maria said she was told to contact Human Resources. It was about a week after the incident when they finally called her. Maria didn’t feel like HR was an effective advocate for her.
“When you have friends, you are going to protect them and make sure that you don’t risk your financial stability. They don’t care. It’s a waste of time, no one cares, just get another job.”
“No one from Affirmative Action called me, no one contacted Dr. Gibbs [OHSU Vice President for Equity and Inclusion], no one asked for follow-up. It’s all about them being friends.”
To Maria, it felt as if OHSU’s priorities were backwards. Its lack of action had the effect of “making me feel like I was the cause of the problem because I reported it. I was the problem. They didn’t make me feel like I was the victim of a hate crime or of discrimination. They made me feel like [the employee who put us the noose] was the victim. It was like he was the one who got hurt, because someone told on him.”
“I was hurt when they found no racial intent. I was hurt by it, and was made to feel that I’m overly sensitive and I should go get the free counseling. I was insulted by it. It’s like they are saying that racism is here and it’s up to me to learn how to accept it.”
“At this point I don’t feel like anything is going to change. I had confidence in a system which had failed.”
For Maria, the losses keep piling up.
“I loved my job. I still think about the patients. I fought for them, I fought insurance companies for my patients. They lost a valuable employee. At the end of the day, because of the color of my skin, no one noticed that anything was wrong. I think about the people who would hug me, who were very sick, and saying ‘Maria, this might be my last visit.’ I think about them.”