I believe that you can change how you were raised. I was not raised believing that, but I now believe that someone can change how they were raised. In my home when I was growing up there was a definite dividing line between Black and White, Asian and White, Jewish and White, and so on. It hurt me as a child to see the racism in my neighborhood. It was clear in the public eye that races of men and women did not mix in regards to marriage, boyfriends and girlfriends, or even just friends. I went to a public school from kindergarten all the way up to high school. There was some racism in the school between students but most of it was at home.
I learned really quickly how serious it was at home. In the third grade, I was invited to go to the movies with my friend Julian. He was my best friend. I got the approval from my parents a couple of days before. The time had come. On a Saturday afternoon, his parents pulled into my driveway and that is when the racism became apparent. I was not allowed to go. Julian’s parents were asked to leave. My parents came up with some lame excuse that covered their tracks. All the while, I was dressed and ready in the house. I have heard that story a couple of times later in my life from my mother. He and I were just kids. I have kept in contact with him through the years. He is still my best friend.
When I was eighteen years old, I enlisted in the Marine Corps. I was excited to see the world. I got orders to Okinawa, Japan for two years. The biggest concern of my grandparents was that I was going to be exposed to “their” culture and that I might bring home a Japanese bride. I did as other did on the base for the most part, stayed on base during the day. At night I ventured off base to have fun at the local bars which were filled to capacity with U.S. Servicemen and Servicewomen. After a couple of months I found myself heading out on my own on the weekends going all over the island. I was greeted and treated with nothing but kindness. I was often treated to free meals and beer. Many of the Okinawans spoke broken English and it was nice to talk with them. My grandparents painted a completely different picture for me as to their hospitality and kindness. I find myself in my middle thirties missing Japan. I had a wonderful time there. I met many nice people.
Just because I was exposed to racism as a child does not make me a racist. It made me a stronger person who now stands up for what I believe in that we are all equal. It is easy for me to relate this to nursing because the patient staring back at the nurses is a human being and should never be treated with any sort of prejudices. I have to respect the wishes of the patient not matter what his or her race or cultural beliefs are.