Once upon a time, a Black man lived in America.
Originally from a ‘small island’ in the Caribbean, he was in awe at the wealth of opportunities up for grabs in the new country he made his home.
He found himself in the concrete jungle of New York City, which excited him to no end; the idea of working on Wall Street put more life in him than God ever could, but he settled for medicine. He enrolled in a two-year Physician’s Assistant program at Touro College in New York, and worked as a security guard and taxi driver to put himself through school. He had guns held in his face on more than one occasion, but he never folded.
Sans sufficient emotional support, he tried to be everything he could be, for himself. He seldom made it to class, but in the end, he got his degree, and immediately got to work, as he always had; Touro College, on the other hand, changed its rules on attendance requirements immediately following his graduation. He worked hard, so much so, it left him with little time to think about anything else in his life, but he always made it to the gym, and on Sundays, to the parkway with his little girl.
He breathed life into his community by seeing anywhere from 40 to 80 patients a day, six times a week, until recently, when he scaled back his schedule to five days a week. He worries when the government cuts Medicare and Medicaid because he knows it means life or death for some of his patients. He has cared for the ill, trans, and the deserving from Rikers Island, New York, down to Albemarle, North Carolina. He truly cares about people’s wellbeing, whether they’re his patients, or someone he’s just crossing paths with; I had seen him do this throughout my life, but his latest, un-billed diagnosis happened at the gym, pre-COVID, when he urged a man working out next to him to get checked for sleep apnea, which he did, and confirmed for him that he had it. Currently, he weans addicts off of opiates, among other things; all in all, his life revolves around saving lives. Every. Single. Day.
The man I speak of is my dad: the eternal optimist, and the capitalist.
…And, perhaps, the person I am most similar to–sometimes, to both of our detriment. Fortunately, he was the first person to teach me about mindfulness, the value of energy, and the freedom that can come with detachment. He was the first person to sit down with me, an 8 year old, at the time, and openly contemplate God’s womanhood; in fact, he’s the only man who has ever posed the question to me. He was the first person to teach me about the erasure of ancient African deities and belief systems. He was the first person to encourage me to question ‘what if?’ again and again, and yet, he is unable to believe in anything other than the system that wears him down, keeps his beloved patients sick, and begs his children to sell their souls.
I’m asking him, ‘why?’ very often, pointing to the system’s brutality, its intrinsic racism, and its false promises. But, my father’s opinion won’t budge, and luckily, neither will mine: this system is killing us, and only we can save ourselves. Reform is a bandaid that we can only wear for so long, and even then, we are lacking enough public servants in positions of power to make the kind of reforms that we so desperately need.
The writing is on the wall: capitalism is failing us; only our imaginativeness and resilience can save us. I mean, seriously, if we can ask, ‘what if?’ in regard to nearly everything else in this life, why is it so hard for us to begin to ask ourselves,