The Beginning of Healing
In the wake of recent events, many speak about the need for conversations about race. In our country, the implications of race are a moral issue, a humanitarian issue, a justice issue and, yes, a medical issue. (One need only examine how racial categorization affects rates of death.) But what would this conversation about race look like?
Today, Pulse's editor provides one offering. In August, we'll invite all Pulse readers to join in with their stories, when Race will be the theme of More Voices.
I grew up in Stuyvesant Town, a middle-class housing development just north of Fourteenth Street on the east side of Manhattan. Built after World War II, Stuyvesant Town was a leafy and desirable place to live. There was a long waiting list to get in, and priority was given to World War II veterans, like my father.
Although we think of New York City as a bastion of multiculturalism, African-American veterans were not allowed in Stuyvesant Town--a policy upheld by the courts until the mid-1960s.
It's October, and I'm a second-year medical student. My best friend Carly and I have just finished a backpacking trip through South America. We fly out tomorrow from Lima, Peru, and we have just one thing left to do: eat shrimp ceviche, the classic South American dish of raw seafood marinated in lime or lemon juice, oil and spices.
We wander along the busy streets until we find the restaurant our hostel's desk clerk recommended. It's a small, dingy joint that doesn't look up to the current health code, but I don't give that another thought once a giant bowl of amazing shrimp ceviche is placed in front of me.
It's incredibly delicious, and we quickly demolish it.
Arthur stops close to where we sit waiting
for the person you call the activities lady
to serve us drinks and biscuits.
He moves his wheelchair with slippered feet,
so we become another group.
You introduce me, This is my sister,
I nod to Arthur and watch his mouth form words
that seem reluctant to reach me, hang
in the air unsteady, diminished.
He continues to speak, I continue to nod,
I think he's asking about my name,
you seem to understand, or do you guess?
I'm trying to work out if there's a knack
I've yet to grasp, a way to hear
the hush and lisp of his voice, because
all the time you've been here, where
you don't want to be, after all these months
Arthur is the first person you've introduced me to.