While we have made progress in addressing inequality in the world since I was a child, the work is far from done. There are still examples of inequality all around us. It may be due to race, sexual orientation, social status, gender, religion or a myriad of other factors.
Inequality exists when African American and Hispanic citizens fill our prisons due to racial profiling and when they receive harsher jail sentences for committing the same crime as Caucasians. Inequality exists when unarmed teenagers are shot by police, when rich children have better funded schools than poor children and when homosexual men and women suffer hate crimes, or have different privileges than heterosexuals. Inequality exists when women and children are forced into the sex trade.
When I think of inequality in my own life, two experiences come to mind. The first happened the summer of 1970, soon after I graduated from college. I decided to spend that summer doing migrant farm labor while I studied for the State Board of Nursing exams I would take in the fall. Three friends and I picked fruit and vegetables in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Washington State.
I experienced inequality in many ways that summer. In Georgia, the farmers assumed any woman who wanted to do farm labor was a prostitute. In South Carolina, we were paid more per hour because we were white, even though the African American workers were experienced and we weren’t. We were given access to toilets; black workers were required to use outhouses.
When I asked a farmer if we could stay in the family camp, he looked very confused, and told us that there weren’t any families here. After a moment of reflection, he went on to say, “Oh, you mean the n……..s.” To him black children didn’t even qualify as “children.” I was outraged. He gave us a cattle truck to live in, but after staying there one night I decided to ask the black crew boss, if we could sleep in their bus. The crew boss suggested, instead, that we sleep in their kitchen. (See Tearing at the Fabric of Racism)
The other example of inequality that came to my mind happened around 1973 when I was working in the Labor and Delivery unit of a Seattle hospital. Pregnant women were beginning to want “Natural Childbirth” at that time but the labor and delivery room nurses knew nothing about that way of birthing. I asked my head nurse if I could arrange for a natural childbirth class for the nurses. She said I would have to first get the permission of the Medical Director of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. When I made my request to him, his immediate response was “No.” And that was the end of that. Nurses had no power to overturn a physicians decision.
What experiences of inequality have you had?
May the day come when all are seen as equals.
Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti
May all beings in the world be happy. Peace, Peace, Peace