Years ago, I was working for a computer company doing IT support shortly after I had moved from Mississippi to Oklahoma. Generally, there was a specific department that dealt with calls in Spanish; this was not my department. One day, I ended up with a call from a user who spoke only Spanish, and unfortunately the Spanish speaking department was unavailable. Wanting to make sure that the customer was taken care of, I said in my terrible attemp, “Uno momento por favor.”
Putting the customer on hold, I went to go see if one of my co-workers whom I knew did speak Spanish was available. Unfortunately, Hector was busy, so I thought to myself, “Hey! What about Jill?” Jill was a brown skinned, raven headed girl, clearly of Latino decent. I knew she didn’t have a Latino accent, but I also knew that often second or third generation Latinos were bi-lingual as their parents or grandparents spoke Spanish at home and they spoke English out around town. Fortunately, Jill was not busy so I ran over to her and said, “Jill, could you help me please? I got a guy on the phone who only speaks Spanish and the Spanish line is down. Can you help me please?”
Jill, ever so sweetly, and clearly not having this be the first time this has happened said to me with a smile, “Amanda, sweetie. I don’t speak Spanish. I’m a full blooded Cherokee.”
Lesson Learned? Brown skinned, dark haired people in Oklahoma aren’t only Latino, they’re also possibly Native American. And I’m an ass.