We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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Photo ofInessa Everett
When I was younger, about 10 or 11, I believed that racism was a thing of the past. That it had been eradicated during the civil rights movement. That Martin Luther King Jr. had inspired the hearts of our country to accept everyone for who they were, not just the color of their skin. I found that I was wrong. 
Around that time, we lived in a duplex. We lived on one end of the building and our neighbors lived on the other side. Our neighbor’s name was Maggie, and she had a daughter named Madison. Often, while our parents were at work, my little sister, Kaliyah (who was about 3 at the time), and I went over to Maggie’s house since we were too young to stay home alone. One day, while I was at school, Kaliyah and Madison were taking a bath together. I arrived home to find my sister with red arms. When I asked what happened, Madison said that Kaliyah’s skin was dirty and she had tried to clean it off. I didn’t think much of it, since Kaliyah had a fondness for making messes when no one was looking.  It wasn’t until later (like months later) that I thought about what had happened. What would be on her arms that would require so much scrubbing? It’s not like there was any residual mess in the house that I could see. I asked Kaliyah about it and she said that Madison had just kept trying to scrub her when there wasn’t anything there. And then it hit me: Madison had tried to scrub the black off of my sister’s skin. The realization shocked me to my core. Why had Madison thought that Kaliyah’s skin needed to be light like hers? What was going on in this country-- a country that preached equality for all? What kind of country is this that our next door neighbor didn’t know that our skin color was a natural occurrence? 
The more that I look around, the more I see the inequality that America tries to hide. Just for example, look at the capitol. When there was a Black Lives Matter protest, the entire National Guard was guarding the capitol. It was called a riot despite the fact that there was no damage and no violence. When the Trump supporters walked up, there were a few security guards and police officers; those police officers had formerly been traffic cops, not actual officers that were used to handling demonstrations and the like. The supporters broke into the Capitol, killed police officers, smashed windows and even smeared their poop on the walls. This is one of many comparisons that can be made between the treatment of African Americans and Whites. What was the point of the Civil Rights movement when we are still treated unfairly like this? Martin Luther King Jr. told us that “We must learn to live together as brothers, or we will perish together as fools.” At the rate tensions are growing between us, it looks like we’re choosing the second option.  When I was younger, about 10 or 11, I thought that our country had changed after the Civil rights movement. And it had, to an extent. But we still have a very, very long way left to go.

© Inessa Everett. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.