When my father was raised in Deland, FL everything was separate and very unequal. Volusia Avenue was the dividing line in our small town. Due to redlining, blacks could not buy property on the other side of that main street. My dad went to Euclid High School, a high school for blacks because black kids couldn’t attend Deland High. Two of my aunts went to FAMU without the option of going to other university due to their race. Law enforcement treated them as less than equal. They could not vote. I could go on and on.
As a child in the 60’s, things started out the same. I went to the same segregated elementary school that my father went to and I lived in the segregated neighborhood. Yet, the civil rights movement was going on. Because of that work, new doors began to open up right before my eyes. My family moved to Minneapolis, MN at the time when I was to begin the 4th grade. When I walked into the doors of Bancroft Elementary School, for the very first time, there were white students and teachers in my school. I befriended a guy in my class named David. One day, he invited me into his home. I remember going there and playing with him and his black lab. I remember that day in my history for being a time to get to see and to know a white person as a person who was more like me than different than me. A huge wall came down and relationships were formed outside of my ethnic group, a practice that has continued in life for me.
Most of the stories from my life are different than that of my father’s. I could go to schools that were closed to him. I could buy restate in places where he couldn’t. When I reflect on my nearest and dearest friends, work place peers (from 4th grade onward), running buddies, teachers and mentors—they are white, black, Hispanic—multi ethnic. I have sat at the table with people from different faith backgrounds, to the honor of God. What a blessing for me. But, I must also be true to the exceptions to the rule when I experienced and felt racial pain. One day, while running with a Hispanic friend in San Gabriel, CA—I was followed home by a police cruiser. The officer flew down the street. I walked towards the cruiser to see what was up. To my surprise, the officer drew his gun on us, on me, while asking me to stop. His assumption was that blacks don’t live here and I was a criminal. I had this kind of experience when I was 16 and 24 in both CA and MN.
When I reflect on what has been happening in America of late, I grieve. I am made very, very sad. I’m affected. The memories of my bad experiences came back to me instantly. Then I think--my 3 young daughters could possibly be in a car with a black man in an incident like the one that happened in MN—Isn’t this 2016? This generation shouldn’t be living out that which I lived out 30 years ago. We have come too far to go backwards. Oh how we need to have a renewal in our racial dialogue.
In the work that we do here at NCH, we find ourselves in traumatic and very stressful situations more often than we want. Over the years, I have learned that when I am in stressful situation there is a need to slow things down. In order to be professional I slow things down, center myself, in order to get it right. The patients and their families matter. Perhaps, this work place principle applies beyond the work place and it reaches out towards matters regarding race, religion, economics and politics—slow things down, center one’s self in order to get it right. We are one another’s neighbor in the eyes of God and I want to walk in such a way as to show all of you that you matter and you have my love.