When I graduated from medical school, many years ago, I took an oath. An oath to preserve and uphold human life. All human life. What I saw in the horrific, excruciating minutes of the video in Minneapolis made a mockery of that oath, threw it in the filthiest mud, destroyed ideals and brought back the ghost of when humans were property. Property that could be disposed of at one’s whims. With impunity. Without justice.
I came to America as an immigrant thirty-three years ago. I will be eternally grateful for the opportunities that I was given. Maybe that the American dream we see on TV commercials had some truth to it after all. An idea that even immigrants who didn’t go to the right school, who didn’t know anybody, and who spoke with the funky accent, yes, even they could be contributors. Players. But after what I saw in Minneapolis, I wonder where I have been all these years. Was I blind? Did I not see the century-old discrimination, the systematic racial injustice, the staggering violence against our neighbors of color? Their assassination.
Non riesco a respirare. I can’t breathe. That was what Signora Manzoni had said to me as a young doctor In Italy many years ago. She couldn’t breathe because the disease had taken over her lungs. I can’t breathe. Back then, there was nothing I could do. But now, it’s different. Now we have the power. The power to scream from the highest tower that at Wistar, everybody is welcome. That we embrace the world, all of it, with joy and anticipation. The color of your skin, your customs, your language, your religion, all are welcome here. All are cherished. All are safe. All are us.
We are blessed that science doesn’t know borders or flags, doesn’t distinguish among national anthems, doesn’t know hate or discrimination. Doesn’t know racism. We are all the same. We are one. Science has always been a force for change. I know that it will be again now, when change is so desperately needed in our society. And I know that Wistar will continue to do its part, as it has done for over a century, to stand for racial equality, uphold social justice, honor fairness and support inclusiveness for all.
Dario C. Altieri, M.D.