The Cambridge Dictionary defines racism as the policies, behaviors, rules, etc. that result in a continued unfair advantage to some people and unfair or harmful treatment of others based on race. Racism should not be worse than the coronavirus pandemic that has massively changed our daily lives. However, racism has been a global problem for a long time and exists within the veterinary field. I was never aware of the challenges faced in the veterinary profession, predominantly white. During my vet school journey, I have dealt with racist comments a few times. I remember when I attended a conference where 97% of the attendees were white Americans, and many times they tried to correct the way I pronounced the name of my school. Although I knew I was saying it right, they could not understand me because they weren’t used to my accent. Another time, a clinician asked me to let clients know where I am from when introducing myself to them.
I also remember being asked by a veterinarian what it was like to go to a black vet school and if I felt uncomfortable there. Every time I dealt with comments or questions related to race, I felt sad and discouraged. But I can honestly say that I never felt uncomfortable at Tuskegee. I felt proud to represent my Hispanic community and became part of that 75% of minority students who received a DVM there. I went to one of the most diverse vet schools in the United States, founded by two veterinarians who wanted to allow people of color to receive veterinary training. I learned from the African-American culture to accept my differences and be proud of where I come from.
I came to realize that being a minority young woman in science, having an accent, and speaking a second language was a blessing at Tuskegee Vet school. I had many opportunities there and developed a genuine desire to promote diversity in this field. My vet school taught me more than veterinary medicine, it taught me the power of diversity and how to embrace it.