We Can No Longer Remain Silent

A patient walked in with her child, who was probably about four years old. I greeted the child, but he wanted nothing to do with me. He said, “I don’t like her. I don’t like that color!” I thought maybe I’d misunderstood him. Then he said, loud and clear, “I don’t like Black.” His mother, obviously embarrassed, told him that wasn’t a nice thing to say, and I had to carry on with the visit as if nothing had happened.
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I Am a White Woman

I am a White woman with privilege. My parents preached that all people are created equal, but we lived in White communities. Talk is easy. When I was in high school, my father was transferred and we moved. With many more Black persons in Virginia, Maryland, and D.C., my mother’s true views emerged. It was 1962, and as we drove places, her talk was a stream of stereotyping racism.

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#ILookLikeASurgeon

I finished general surgery training in 2002. At that time, it felt like a whole new era in medicine, or so I thought. I was off to solo-private practice in “liberal,” northern California. I had naïve optimism as the first Black graduate of my residency program, one of few Black women practicing general surgery, and the first woman and Black person to practice general surgery at this hospital.
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Checking In

My black friends and colleagues have been through a lot in the past few months. They are not okay.
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Many have lost family and friends to COVID. Lay-offs have affected my black friends more than my white friends. Recent murders of blacks, at the hands of police and civilians, show the continued deadly effects of American racism.
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Gail’s Pencil Box

I was in the fourth grade in 1956, when I became one of the first black students in Kansas City, Kansas, to desegregate Abbott Elementary School. That year was filled with learning experiences for everyone involved— teachers, parents, and both black and white children—but by the end of the school year the ugly incidents had been few. I had great expectations when fifth grade rolled around, but nothing could have prepared me for what was to come.

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Reflections on a Peaceful Protest

For the first time in my very privileged life, I was forced to lie face down, in the middle of the road, with my hands behind my back. The asphalt was hard and tore into my knees. My shoulders and wrists ached from having my arms pinned behind my back. The muscles in my neck cramped from trying to hold my head off the ground. I could barely get the words “I can’t breathe” out of my mouth. I was there with hundreds of others of all races, ethnicities, and backgrounds who were also forced to lie face down on

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The Scales Fall Off

I grew up in a tiny town the Deep South in the 1950s. Racism was everywhere, but I was too young to know there was another way. “Colored people” (the term used then) had their own waiting room at the doctor’s office. They had a separate entrance and sat in the balcony at the movie theater. They were never seen downtown; it was an unwritten rule that blacks could only be downtown if they were performing menial labor there.
The “colored people” all lived in one section of town, where they became “n*****s” when drunks drove through, throwing bottles and cans

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Someone’s Mother

I don’t know if I’m a racist. I hope not, but I can’t be sure.
Decades ago, several years into my ICU nursing career, I started my night shift facing three angry adult daughters of an African American woman. The patient had suffered a horrible head wound. My first awareness of her came from smell, not sight. I recognized the odor of infection and tissue death. Her head was swathed in a turban of furacin-soaked gauze dressing her injury.
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An Education in Empathy

Before introducing my eighth-grade students to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, I played for them a song from South Pacific, one of my favorite musicals. I chose this song because the lyrics describe the illness known as racism and how this acquired disease infects so many people: “You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late/before you are six or seven or eight/to hate all the people your relatives hate/you’ve got to be carefully taught.”

For years, my students failed to show much reaction to what I considered a creative lesson plan. I attributed their blasé attitude to the demographics of the class—all

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An Editor’s Invitation: Racism

It feels as if our nation is bleeding.
Bleeding from the death of 100,000 COVID-19 victims.
And bleeding from the recent reminders that racism is not only alive and well in this great land of ours, its consequences are deadly. Racism is killing us through illness, through police violence, through mass incarceration and through the myriad ways that children and adults are given or denied opportunities and second chances, based upon skin color.
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