This I Believe

S - Napoleon, Ohio
Entered on December 14, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

Often times, I stand in front of the mirror staring at my own reflection and wonder if the person looking back at me is the same person that faces the world. Sure, I know that some people can see me for who I truly am, but then again there still remain those few people that never seem to make it past my gender or the color of my skin. It is those who struggle to view me as an actual person instead of a stereotype who have shown me the greatest understanding of, “Thou shalt not judge.”

It is said that there is a lot more to a person than can ever meet the eye and, growing up, I was taught that it is not the physical appearance or stature of a person that makes them good or bad, but rather what is on the inside which matters most. While my mother instilled those values in me, the rest of my family didn’t exactly share the same understanding.

Born into a family of predominately Caucasians, I faced prejudices from day one. My mother was approached in stores and told how nice it was for her to adopt me. When asked what ethnicity I was by some of their friends, my grandparents would reply that I was Native American. You see, my own grandparents were too embarrassed to admit that my father was black. They were ashamed of a very important part of my identity that I had absolutely no control over.

Once I started school, I found many more challenges from teachers who thought that I would be slower than the other children, to my peers using ethnic slurs to hurt my feelings. I remember telling my mom that I wished I had blonde hair and blue eyes like everyone else. It took, and continues to take, a lot of work to prove to my family, teachers, and classmates that just because I look different does not make me any less of a person than anyone else.

One of my very best friends has a heart of gold, but some refuse to acknowledge him because he is gay. As a teenager, he has just begun the long and hard road that lies in front of him. Laws prohibit him from marrying the person he loves, because it is another man. Certain religions and churches shun him away, never taking the time to see him for the person he truly is.

I ask myself on a daily basis why and how the world can be so cruel. But then, who am I to have such thoughts? I get so frustrated at the world for casting judgments, and I am doing the very same thing. It’s a continuous lesson for me to learn and relearn. No one posses the right to look down on anyone else for the way they choose to lead their life because most things are completely beyond our control.