Author: Annette M. Suriani, CMP, CFMP, DES | AMS Meeting Solutions | PCMACC DEI Committee Member
I grew up in the 70’s in New York City. The melting pot, the big apple. A time when hippies and free love reigned. My father was a hospital administrator at a city-owned hospital in Manhattan. I saw things most people will never see except on TV. People with gunshot wounds. Teenagers strung out on drugs. People shooting up in tenements. People living in what was then called a “commune”. Interracial couples living in all white or all black neighborhoods and so much more. I went to catholic schools most of my life but was not sheltered. The first high-school I went to was an all-girl school across from another catholic school.
Back then, you only had a baby if you were married. If you weren’t, you were sent away to have your child and give it up for adoption in most cases. They were called homes for unwed mothers. There was such a home sandwiched in between these two catholic schools where we were taught that sex was between married people.
At lunch time we would be hanging outside the cafeteria, sneaking our cigarettes on school property and watching these teenage girls with baby carriages or walking down the street visibly pregnant. White, Black, Puerto Rican, Asian – it wasn’t limited to a specific race except the “human race”.
Because I saw this at a young age and because my parents didn’t teach us (and yes, I mean teach because hatred is learned) to hate anyone because of the color of their skin, I didn’t judge people on the color of their skin but probably on their actions.
Fast forward to August 2023. I just spent a month in Sicily living in an apartment in the historic district of Palermo. Definitely an area of mixed socioeconomic people and races. We met people from all over the world including my hometown of Staten Island! But what really struck me was hearing the Italian language being spoken by everyone – Black, White, Asian. Why did it strike me? Did I think Italian was only spoken by Whites? Why did I think that? Who taught me that? Was my myopic way of thinking an unconscious bias? Or was I just ignorant? It probably was both. So, no matter who you are or how or where you were raised, we all have unconscious bias in us and it’s something we all need to work at eliminating.
In the words of Sly Stone in Everyday People:
There is a yellow one
That won’t accept the black one
That won’t accept the red one
That won’t accept the white one
For different folks
And so on and so forth
And Scooby dooby dooby
I am everyday people