America's Truth and Lies
I invite you to take a look at the world through the eyes of a young black man
in America. Racism is not confined to hate groups and an offensive word. It is
assuming the worst about a person you might not even know for something that s/he
can't control. Does racism still exist in America? I want you to examine this
question after reading these examples.
A man is shot 41 times on his front steps in the middle of the night. He was trying
to take out his wallet to prove he was innocent. His killers were supposedly men
of the law. They walked free. America is supposed to be the "land of the
free and the home of the brave." Well it doesn't seem like freedom to me.
And are enforcers of the law "brave" when they shoot an innocent man
on his front steps? I don't want anybody who is willing to kill an innocent man
working for my law enforcement agency, which is supposed to protect me. The victim
could have been my father, or my grandfather, or a family friend reaching for
his wallet-a man being a good citizen. But he was a black man, and so the police
assumed he was reaching for a weapon and presumed him to be dangerous.
I also don't think enforcers of the law should have the right to pull an innocent
man over just because of the color of his skin. Should the police start pulling
over people just because of the color of their hair or eyes? How about because
of their height? Does anyone presume that blondes, or people with green eyes,
or short people are somehow inherently dangerous? Here's another example: four
innocent girls were killed and many others injured when a grown man felt the need
to bomb a church in Birmingham. The worshippers, who don't look so different from
girls who go to my church, were in Sunday school at the time. What's even more
intolerable is that these killers were found innocent. So while the bombers live
long lives, those girls will forever be teenagers.
Do you think America's youth is not racist? When I was nine years old at summer
camp, I was called a name that has degraded my race for centuries. I was called
that name because I laughed at a joke about somebody's lunch. I again encountered
racism in the third grade. I overheard somebody saying to one of my friends that
if she and I ever had a child it would be "messed up" because it would
be half black and half white. The racists I have encountered in my life have been
well-educated, Northern suburbanites. These are people who laugh and joke with
me on the bus, people who sit in classrooms in a school full of privileged youth.
My mother told me once, "Paul, if you ever get pulled over by a police officer,
keep both hands on the wheel. Do not speak unless you are spoken to. Be polite,
and try not to disagree with the officer." She also taught me not to take
toys into a store with me; it will be assumed that I stole them.
The truth of my America looks different from other people's. I see America through
different eyes, and it sees me differently. I feel that we'll never truly get
over the racial barrier, and it saddens me greatly.
Paul Washington, 7th grade
Germantown Academy, Landsdale, Pennsylvania