Maybe he thought it would be buried under a list of past transgressions. He obviously didn’t know (or would not have cared to know) that a felony charge would have prohibited me from becoming a physician, something that I had earned with my blood, sweat, and tears. Nevertheless, with God’s grace and family support, and aided by Xavier University administration, unlike many others I was able to successfully clear my name while focusing on my first year of medical school. I offer my story as another example of how in eight minutes and 46 seconds a life, or a life’s work, can be stolen.
Explore This IssueJuly 2020
Until this point, I haven’t told this story to many people. But in times like these and in the midst of discussions of current events, when colleagues and friends have doubt or question how one’s life or life’s work could be in danger not because of one’s own actions or character but solely because of the color of one’s skin, I offer my story so they can put a familiar face on the current situation that our country faces.
I felt compelled to write the account of my experience not for sympathy but to inspire empathy for the spark and subsequent fire that the murder of George Floyd has ignited inside so many people. I’ve had other such experiences in the past, but this one was more significant because I was so close to accomplishing my dream of becoming a physician. When I look back it hurts to know that it could have all come to an end at that very moment.
The unfortunate truth is my experience is very common. I’m happy that my story has inspired others to have the courage to tell theirs. To add insult to injury, while I was in my first year of medical school, waiting for a resolution, I had medical school classmates who openly and privately voiced that I and the other 10 African American students didn’t deserve to be there. These experiences of racism have made me more determined to succeed and to assist others. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t say that those opinions were the minority and did not represent the totality of my experience.
I think there are three relatively simple steps that we must take to address racism: 1. Acknowledge that racism exists; 2. Understand the bias in our processes; and 3. Act with purpose to include diverse representation at all organizational levels. There’s a letter from my attorney, telling me that I had been cleared of the charges, that hangs on the wall in my office alongside the many certificates and awards that I’ve received over the years. It serves as a reminder that only God can stop me now. It’s time to stand for justice (I encourage you to follow #StandForJustice, #BlackLivesMatter, and #JusticeforGeorgeFloyd on Twitter) and do away with fear, because fear leads to inaction. Now is the time for honest dialogue and purposeful action.