I became a mom to a black son 25 years ago. Four months later I graduated from my family medicine residency carrying him on my hip to receive my diploma. He was born during a time when I was planning for our future and the future of generations to come. I was secure in knowing that as a mom I could protect him and as a physician, I could make sure his physical health was protected. I was hopeful about him growing up and becoming a young man who hopefully didn’t have to face the racism, bigotry, and discrimination that I, his grandparents, and his ancestors faced. I was hopeful that providing him with a good home and a good education, would somehow give him an advantage that I did not have. I wanted him to grow up knowing that he mattered. That his life mattered. That he would be treated fairly. That he could achieve and be anything he wanted to be regardless of the color of his skin.
That dream and hope for a better tomorrow started to slowly look like that of my ancestors. What I realized was that the same things I had to fight for, he would have to endure and encounter now. My years as a woman and a physician in a predominantly white profession would lend itself to microaggressions in the workplace, name-calling, stares, disrespect, constantly being mistaken for a custodial worker, and having to hear the coffee room talk that would make me cringe. The same discrimination and lack of empathy from those who choose to deny that racism exists would now seep into his world. I find myself constantly worrying about his safety, reminding him to be careful, constantly having the talk, making sure he is always alert and aware of his surroundings, and reminding him to not let his guard down.
What kind of world is that to live in? Who wants to constantly question the motive of others or to always have eyes behind their backs? Who wants to continue to feel that they will never be seen for who they truly are because there are those who choose to let the color of one’s skin dictate how they will interact with them?
My heart aches for the mothers who lost their black children to violence at the hands of racism and police brutality. My heart aches for my son who has to grow up in a world that still sees color. It’s time to stop hiding behind privilege and speak out about the fundamental issues in our society that prevent us from accepting each other as individuals despite our differences, that create fear and indifference instead of inclusion, that fosters a ‘me’ attitude instead of ‘us’ and that creates destruction instead of love and hope. Let’s get back to basic humanity and spread love.
Dr. Lisa Herbert is a board certified family physician, best selling author and physician executive leadership coach. She is passionate about helping physicians become the respected voice in healthcare. Her website is justtherightbalance.com and she can be followed on all social media @DrLisaHerbert. Check out her talk on “Leadership for Women Physicians” by joining the Women in White Coats Doctors’ Lounge, our uplifting and empowering online membership community created specifically for women doctors.