In my opinion, one of the most underrated phrases in the English language comes down to the question, “Why?” Young children often question everything, from the reason the sky is blue, to the motives behind everything their parents do. As people get older we are taught that some things should not be questioned, that the world simply is the way it is. When respected authority figures, like teachers and doctors, meet inquisitive remarks with a note of finality, we learn to stop asking, “Why?” On October 27, 2015 I took the chance to bring this question back to those with the power to nourish it.
In the fall of 2015, 4 teens sat down with 20 pediatric residents at Boston Medical Center. We, the teens, were there to lead a training on Racism and Racial Justice. My part of the training was called Honest Conversations. I began this by posing the seemingly simple question: “Why is it so difficult to talk about race?” The flood of answers varied from guilt to society, but all encompassed the idea that it is, in fact, difficult to talk about race.
My second question was slightly different. I asked the residents to imagine a world where talking about race was as easy as discussing the weather. “What race-related questions would you ask your patients? What would you ask your colleagues about racism?” As they talked I recorded the varied responses. In the final part of this training, the doctors got into groups and answered the questions. As they talked they began to open up. Each question seemed to peel back a layer of discomfort and the answers got realer and more vulnerable. Throughout the entire conversation it became increasingly clear that when people are allowed to ask questions wonderful things can happen.