Human beings are generally fearful of the unknown, the strange and the unusual. We rightfully warn our children to be aware of and avoid strangers. We place things of an unfamiliar nature in boxes labeled beware, dangerous, harmful or not to be trusted. Thus, a stranger is to be feared. This sets the stage for hatred. To a large degree, people of all ethnic groups tend to be xenophobic, very often without really recognizing it. Xenophobia causes fear, and sometimes fear naturally generates hatred.
I raised my hand during kindergarten class in 1979 when I was 5-years old and announced that I’m black. I actually got up on my feet to say it. I am black. And then afterward I sat back down again. I don’t remember what we were supposed to be doing at the time.
In and of itself, this announcement wasn’t all that unusual. The teacher was black, and we were sitting on the carpet of a classroom in the Washington DC area, which meant that plenty of the children around me were also black. What I said wasn’t glaringly out of place, if you can forgive the timing of it. The real problem with what I said—and the reason why the children laughed and I was sent to the principal’s office—was that I am not black.
They came in colorful garb, full of energy and engaged in lively and loud conversations in their native language. During recess they played their rhythmic music with the salsa beat occasionally swirling their hips and did the cha cha cha. They clung to their own, sensing the disdain that the “owners” of this great institution had for them. They were the unwelcomed intruders; they reeked of happiness and gleefully shared their joy with each other. They were the Cubans who came to America by the boatloads and were perceived as different from the earlier arrivals who had “fit in” better and were more like the owners of their new homeland meaning they were more “white”, wealthy, at least educated and of the professional and middle class. These earlier forbearers were more likely to fit into the existing order.
Providing patient care without regard to race, ethnicity, gender, or religion is a core value of all medical professionals. However, do they extend the same level of tolerance, stand against prejudice, with other members of their profession?
BAHA’I VIEW 1938
On Christmas Day 1938 the head of the Bahá’i Faith, Shoghi Effendi, wrote a very important letter to the Bahá’i communities residing in the United States and Canada. (The letter was later published as a book under the title The Advent of Divine Justice.) It was the eve of World War II. The Empire of Japan had already invaded China in July 1937. In March of 1938 Nazi Germany had absorbed Austria into the Third Reich. In September 1938 the Germans forced Czechoslovakia to cede part of its territory to Germany. On November 9, 1938 many German Nazis attacked and destroyed Jewish businesses and synagogues in the pogrom later known as Kristallnacht (Crystal Night). Against this background of world events, Shoghi Effendi wrote this letter.
I should cut the brother a check … a humongous one at that; one with lots of zeros at the end of it. Seriously. I’m talking about one for Leonard Pitts, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist at The Miami Herald. You’ve seen his name appear in this column a number of times before. You see, aside from being an extremely gifted – and courageous – writer, he makes my job easier. I say that because he occasionally provides me with tantalizing topics and eyebrow-raising quotes for bridging his insights on external issues into our kaleidoscopic workplace.