I am Black. I am a woman. I am a mentor, coach, and advocate. I am an otolaryngologist–head and neck surgeon. I am a physician activist. I am no longer quietly working toward equity. Hear my voice: Black Lives Matter.
Explore This IssueJuly 2020
Erynne A. Faucett, MD, pediatric otolaryngologist, Phoenix Children’s Hospital, assistant professor of otolaryngology, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science, assistant professor of otolaryngology, University of Arizona College of Medicine Department of Child Health, Phoenix
As an African American, I have experienced racism and discrimination throughout my life. In elementary school, I was told that I was a “good kind of Black” because my skin color was lighter and my hair less “kinky” than other Black people’s. Though people thought this was a compliment, these ignorant statements stung me at a young age, as my parents taught my sister and me about our family history and to be proud of our African American roots. We had pictures and stories from our great-great-great grandmother, a slave, who was also a mistress of her slave master. I would continue to hear these “compliments” throughout my childhood and into adulthood. When I was in the fourth grade, my sister and I were called the n-word by a classmate for the first time. Those around us giggled. This made me upset, so I made a comment about her red hair (the meanest thing I could think of). My parents were called to talk to the principal, but hers were not. That’s the day my dad sat my sister and me down to talk about racism. He told us that we would have to be twice as good to get half as much respect.
Little did we know that it wouldn’t be the last time we were called that word. Many years on the basketball court resulted in more derogatory name calling and being spit on by opponents and those in the stands (sometimes even by adults). As we got older, my parents taught us how to interact with police officers and authorities: Be respectful, answer all questions concisely, and show your hands at all times. The day after prom, my friends and our dates decided to go to the local Six Flags amusement park. We drove the nice convertibles our dates had rented for prom to the park. Upon entry into the parking lot, we were stopped by multiple police officers and had our cars and personal belongings searched because we “matched the identities of a group of people who stole a car in the city.” Only a couple of months afterward, I had a knee put to my back by a police officer after another case of misidentification while at a graduation party. These events all happened before the age of 18.