When you’re a little kid, you never seem to see the world for what it really is; a cold, harsh world that is unforgiving to those who aren’t exactly what society deems to be correct. Instead, most kids are sheltered from such harsh realities and thus, do not fully understand the concept of “tolerance.” However, as we grow older this concept, that so many seem to have either misunderstood or completely forgotten, seems to bear a new sense of importance. It’s only when you’re older that you really begin to see people as individuals rather than classes or cliques. However, not all people move away from such “labels.” Some people continue to judge others, not on the content of their character, but rather on their outward appearances. They see people not for who they really are, but for who they are on the outside. It’s pathetic, but this event occurs day in and day out all across the world. I learned this the hard way; through a death
It was the beginning of my seventh grade year at school that I saw a TV show featuring a murder that had occurred in Amarillo, Texas in December of 1997. Although the murder had occurred when I was five years old, the case has continued to stick with me. It involved a nineteen-year-old boy named Brian. Brian was the true “All American Boy.” He was a boy scout as a young boy and was even an advocate for tolerance. There was one thing about Brian, however, that the intolerant town of Amarillo didn’t like; he was a punk. With his bright green mohawk, spikes, and bike chains, he stood out in a town full of conformists. Despite, being a fun loving person whom was even called “Sunshine” by his employer and friends, he was viciously ran over twice by a jock by the name of Dustin Camp, who didn’t like him simply because he was different than him. Even though they had the testimony of over forty witnesses, including the killer’s former girlfriend who was in the car at the time, and Brian’s blood and tissue on his Cadillac, he was acquitted because the jury didn’t want to admit that their precious football player was a murderer and that Brian was a human being. I remember feeling the frustration that not only was someone just murdered, but murdered because they weren’t afraid to be themselves even if it meant standing out.
After I learned of this hate crime, I reaffirmed my belief in tolerance. It didn’t matter if you were a punk or a jock, or were from a different race; none of that mattered. What matters is who you are on the inside, without the clothes and accessories that some seem to define you by. I decided to live under these beliefs and pass them onto those who were lost in their intolerant thoughts. Even now, it bothers me to hear my friends say how they hate people in certain stereotypes. I know they don’t mean to be so intolerant, but they hastily judge others on their appearances rather than try to get to know the person. Their quick to judge attitude reminds me of a word we learned in my first year of Japanese class. In Japan, they use the term “Gaijin” to refer to foreigners. This doesn’t seem bad at first, but this word is in fact a racist term used to segregate “outsiders.” It even is so bad that there are places you can’t go to if you are any other race other than Japanese because they fear that foreigners will make mistakes regarding their traditions. There is also a popular Japanese saying that depicts how society tries to make everything conform to their stands. It is “Derukuigautsu,” which roughly translates as “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down,” meaning that if something stands out and is not what society wants, society will find a way to put it back in its place. Although I know this statement is true, as society does want to make everything conform to its standards, I don’t particularly like the thought of this. It might just be me, but I don’t think society should attempt to change everything that is remotely different. Without our apparent differences, this world would lose its diversity and life would be nothing more than a menial chore. In a time full of hatred, discrimination, and intolerance, I believe in tolerance for all walks of life.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.