Defining Moments and Discrimination

I saw it with my own eyes. It was the type of surreal scene encountered by professionals on a routine basis in this particular city but with little time for reflection and commentary about the lessons we can all use.
The scene was a large multi-residence structure fire with victims trapped inside. It was the kind of alarm that gets the adrenaline pumping for sure. As a lifeless victim was passed through a second story window into the arms of another firefighter waiting on the roof beneath there was a pause long enough to administer some breaths before descending the ladder.
The look of frustration and determination on the firefighters face was clearly visible as he continued working on his little patient, her arms and legs dangling. I have never forgotten those images or one of the lessons learned that day.
You see I had just been in a “heated” debate regarding certain guidelines mandating the hiring of certain ethnic and gender groups for police and fire departments. The race-issue was (and still is) a topic of great concern. But just what is the real issue here anyway? Racial profiling? Is it gender or religious discrimination? It all depends on your point of view. The truth is that it’s our response to these issues that divides people rather than unites them, creates problems rather than solves them. It removes qualified candidates from a hiring list and replaces them with candidates who score lower on their exams.
The victim I mentioned didn’t care who came to save her. In fact, the firefighter didn’t seem too concerned either about the difference of their skin colors because the real enemy wasn’t race, religion or gender that day. I still maintain that everyone needs at least one good defining moment; when life and death come crashing together and help define what’s really important in this brief life. It helps strip away the self-serving endeavors of misguided people.
A police officer shared one of his defining moments with me. Responding to what was considered a routine call, as he exited his squad car, bullets tore into the door and hood. There was never a mention or even a thought about what color skin or gender fired those shots – just that a Chaplain almost had to be sent to his home that night.
Have you ever observed school children at play before they are “influenced” by the systems and cultures adults create? Kids are not born prejudice. Sure they recognize and respond to differences, but they’re pretty innocent until we change that. What would happen if we completely stopped using any reference to skin color and gender, or descriptive words and phrases and started referring to each other as just people?
Finally, I don’t know about you but I’ve seen blood spilled by many different ethnic and gender groups…funny how it’s all the same color. And since you wanted to know – there really are no atheists in foxholes or crumbling buildings. Maybe that’s where legislation, culture and policies should be developed.

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