My grandfather was born in Stellenbosch, South Africa, to Jewish Lithuanian parents who had immigrated to escape growing anti-Semitism in Europe. He was always very liberal and active within the Jewish community in Cape Town, which was by and large anti-apartheid, as well as English-speaking. He became a doctor and was working in an Afrikaans hospital, in an extremely conservative area, but saw patients of all backgrounds. One day his boss came to inform him that a city law had been passed which required doctors to install two separate doors for their patients: white and non-white. Appalled, he adamantly refused, insisting that all his patients would walk through the same door. His employer threatened to not only fire him, but report him. Still, he refused to install another door, and luckily, the demand for doctors was high enough to ensure his security. My grandfather’s simple act of noncompliance resonated with my mother, who left South Africa, refusing to be complicit in a system of oppression. My grandfather taught me not to obey an unjust law, and this sense of moral obligation towards equality is especially prevalent in New York City. In New York, a city of immigrants, everyone has equal opportunity (or so we like to believe) to walk through the same doors, whether on the subway or in a hospital.
– Olivia Brown