Jim Davis was one of the best resident/fellows I have had the pleasure to work with. We worked in a public hospital where we saw many who were underserved. One of the things that always struck me about him was not only his excellent clinical skills, but the kindness and concern that he showed every patient and staff member. Please read what he has posted below. He is an ever-evolving soul. ~ Vicki Holmes, RN, Carmel Presbyterian Church
by Jim Davis, with permission through Vicki Holmes
If you knew me 35 years ago; I don’t think you would recognize me now. I am not proud of the person that I was 35 years ago. Funny how time can change you. Life’s experiences alter your perceptions. Taking yourself out of your zone of comfort and experiencing things in a different way opens your eyes. The Grateful Dead song Ripple has a lyric, “Once in awhile you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right.”
Let me begin by saying that I am glad there was no FaceBook 35 years ago. I am glad there were no camera phones and no internet 35 years ago. 35 years ago, I held racism in my heart. The awful things I said; believed to be true. I held them so dearly they were axiomatic to me.
When I was 17, I got my first tattoo. I was stationed in Aberdeen, Maryland. I was so proud of the Confederate Battle Flag and eagle etched into my arm. This was the outward and visible symbol of my racism. Like so many, I believed this was all about heritage and not hate. This was my ignorance in full flower as I became a young man.
College went on and so did my way of thinking. It didn’t really help that, by m own actions, my exposure to those who weren’t like me was limited. Then my life started to change. Marriage to my best friend and my acceptance into medical school. I began to change. My thoughts about those different than me began to change and I wanted to learn more. So very sad that the first time that I called a person of color my friend was in medical school.
As a first year med student; we had to change into scrubs to go to Anatomy lab. I never changed in front of any of my classmates. I didn’t want anyone to see that tattoo. I always made up some excuse as to why I had to change elsewhere. I eventually had that tattoo covered and you wouldn’t know it was the confederate battle flag unless I show you where to look.
Everyday I can, I ride a big loud Harley Davidson Road Glide through some of the worst neighborhoods in St. Louis. That’s where I work and really that is where a large part of my heart is. Everyday, whether on my bike r not; I see what systemic racism has done to generations of Black families.
I am white privilege. Without question I worked hard to be where I am. However, the system in place is set up for me to succeed. I had to overcome obstacles; but not my skin color, sexual identity or my gender. Saying that racism is not still very much alive and well and frankly prospering is intellectually dishonest. I confronted my hate and racism. Everyday I strive to do better; to be better. When I go places now, where I work; I am frequently the only white person around.
You might ask, “why come out with this now?” I needed to say it, that’s all. We can change, people change. Remember, the old question about “Name one person from history that if you could meet and talk to, who would it be?” For me it would be Malcom X. Although I don’t think he would have thought much of me as a younger man. Until his journey to Mecca in 1964 and became el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, I would have been the embodiment of the “white devil.” Malcolm began to see the good in everyone and knew that even the most vitriolic of people could change. Malcolm changed, I changed. If we can change; anyone can change.
If you have stayed throughout the post, thanks for listening to me.
I will not turn this into a discussion about race. If you don’t agree with me, you won’t change my mind; nor I yours.
Racism won’t be remedied with a FaceBook post. Maybe, just maybe, someone will read this and consider their own situation.