By Natasha Zastko
Summer Youth Leadership Program
One of the most shameful things about today’s society is that those who are privileged live their entire lives not knowing the advantages they are presented with and therefore continuously overlook the challenges that others face.
If you were to tell them that they have received special conveniences due to their skin color, they would simply tell you to lighten up and stop believing the conspiracies. But, you see, they are not conspiracies. The most shameful thing about today’s society is that racial injustice is still very prevalent today. Even 50 years after the Civil Rights Movement, 21 years after the LA riots, and four years after the election of the first African-American president, these despicable issues are still permeating into our lives.
They have simply become subtle and normalized to the point that people, even those being marginalized, cannot notice it.
Growing up all over the United States as a Caucasian, I have never been marginalized or treated differently due to the color of my skin, nor have I been legitimately bullied for being white. I was raised to treat every individual as my equal and assumed that others did the same. It was not until my fourth grade, African American best friend told me about how her daddy was called a “n_gger” at a restaurant or when my Asian American friends told me how they are called “ch_nks” at school, when I realized that there is something severely wrong with how people are treated in America.
Truthfully, I find myself surrounded by people of color more often than with people of similar ethnic backgrounds. It is hard to imagine some of the things my friends have gone through when I have not experienced anything of the sort. Sometimes, they look at me like I could never understand. Sometimes, I am viewed as an enemy, a danger, or a threat. Maybe I could never understand the things they have gone through, but each and every person on the planet has felt what it is like to be left out, excluded, or unwanted at some point in their life. Each of us can relate and understand another person’s pain, maybe not completely, but to an extent. To me, that is one of the most beautiful things about the human race.
There is no singular group of people that suffers and there is no singular group of people that oppresses others. We all feel pain and are all capable of inflicting it on others, sometimes purposefully and sometimes absolutely unintentionally. Instead of focusing on the darkest parts of our society, we must focus on where we can improve. Instead of waiting for others to get the message and stop being stereotypical, racist, or just plain rude, we must take our own first steps towards equality. We must be cognizant of how we interact with those around us, especially if there is a racial difference. This act is imperative to our everyday lives because if we are careless with our speech, our words can be misinterpreted and transformed from conversation to catastrophe. We must practice the simple and pure act of being gentle and kind to each person until it becomes habit.
It would be truly a beautiful world if we could simply understand each other’s pain. To have patience to accept people on their worst days, to give a helping hand to someone in need, or to simply listen, truly hear those who are around you. We all go through similar pain and suffering, disguised in different forms, approaching each of us at different points in our lives. The amount of melatonin in your skin or the amount of money in your wallet cannot prevent anyone from feeling pain. Why not go through it together? (end)
Natasha Zastko is a junior at Ingraham High School.