Reflections for Black History Month
Dr. Michael Blackwell:
The Inconvenience of Racism
I grew up watching my Dad provide veterinary services to mostly White families in Southeast Oklahoma. During the early years of his practice, we could not go into certain businesses because they didn’t serve Black people. Maybe his clients were not the ones blocking entrances, but their silence helped maintain a system of discrimination known as Jim Crow.
Racism is wrong. It is also inconvenient, especially when someone is offering a needed service.
Although we have a way to go, I hope that our nation and the veterinary profession will embrace racial diversity. Among those discriminated against can be found the help needed. Racism is inconvenient, and remaining silent sustains it.
Dr. Kwane Stewart:
As long as I can remember I was fast. Just plain ole fleet of foot and could beat most anyone in a race. I can’t take much credit, I think I got it from my father who was a stand out athlete himself (even a pro for a while). I think speed is one of those things you’re just born with, passed down from your parents like eye color, height…or skin color.
I had two big dreams growing up – running in the Olympics and becoming a vet. Those two clashed in an usually moment when I was 16. While running in my state track meet a coach approached me and said, “You’re talented, you plan on running at the next level?”. I said, “Absolutely. On my way to vet school”. Without realizing it, he chuckled and said “I’ve never known a Black vet before”. And I replied “I guess I’ll be the first.”
Now, right now you’re picturing a White guy saying these discouraging words. But he wasn’t.
He was Black.
Now that I’m older I reflect back on this moment, not with disappointment, but empathy and curiosity. I think he was likely a victim of being judged or classified like so many other minorities…maybe taught that in this America he could only be certain things. And so he was only passing on what he knew.
But there is a happy ending. I became a vet. More importantly I am a believer that our determination and potential (even the small portion we keep hidden in reserve) is an atom bomb. And sometimes all we need is someone or something to light the fuse.
I’ve tried to be that “lighter” for any young person I encounter…a power we all possess.
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