Some years before I was born, my father enlisted in the United States Navy to serve our country. Meanwhile, my mother was building her career as a nurse at school in Colorado. Still further back, my father grew up as an “Army Brat”, starting in Chattanooga, TN then several stops throughout the Unites States of America until he and his family settled in Berlin, Connecticut. Around that same time, my mother was born and raised just outside Cape Cod in Wareham, Massachusetts, where there was a diverse group of immigrants living and working. Each parent went to school with or served in the military with and later worked in hospitals with a wide range of ethnicities. Why do I mention this? It is this fact that has defined how I feel about race.
My mother and father did not use racially negative terms in my house. My brother, sister, and I were not exposed to bigotry or hatred towards another race. My mother and father worked in the medical field. The medical field sees no color or race in an emergency situation. The medical field does not discriminate when it comes to changing your bed pan or inserting a feeding tube or drawing blood to determine what is wrong with you. My parents were not fans of racially offensive movies, songs, and news stories; thus my brother, sister, and I grew up following their lead. Their leadership at a young age for my brother, sister, and I is the main reason why my views on race are what they are.
Growing up, my brother, sister, and I were active is recreation and sports. Our teams consisted of kids that looked like us and those who did not. We competed against kids that looked like us and those who did not. Regardless, the concept of TEAM was to support and encourage every player on your baseball team, basketball team, swim team, cross country team, it didn’t matter what sport. The point was to be a good teammate and treat everyone on your team with respect and encouragement. Youth sports taught me this at a very young age and I instill those same values into my players and sons at every level. This is another important reason why my views on race are what they are.
Some years after college, I moved to Brooklyn, New York. I was transferred from Cambridge, Massachusetts to work in the New York area. Living in New York was amazing in terms of the incredible amount of diversity. Restaurants with Cuban themes, Irish themes, Cape Verde, Jamaica, Cambodia, the list goes on and on. Walk up 15th St, you will find clothing stores owned by Russian immigrants, a convenience store owned by a couple from Nigeria, a record store owned by second and third generation Italians. Take a ride on any of their public transportation options – bus, train, subway – and you will see the incredible view of hundreds of nationalities. These people are going to school together, going to work together, going to a concert together, going home together. On a New York City subway ride, you can really learn a lot about race in our country and how there can co-existence for all races. I lived and rode the subway into and out of Brooklyn for close to three years and not once did I ever witness a racially explosive situation on a New York Subway ride. Not once. Living in New York taught me a lot about race in this country.
Racial views start with Mom and Dad. They are the most important influence a child can have. If Mom and Dad are on board with racial equality, more likely than not, the child will be on board. It doesn’t start when the child is 17 or 15 or even 10. It starts with a message and that message happens at birth. I got the message loud and clear from my parents. It is that message that helped me form my views on race at a very early age. It is that message I still hold true today and it is that message that I am passing down to my sons. As you would in the emergency room, as you would on the baseball field, as you would on a New York Subway ride to Manhattan, treat your fellow brother and sister as you would want to be treated. Respect your neighbor and love one and other as you would want to be loved.
Be good to each other.