Look Past the Stereotype

Amanda - Haddon Township, New Jersey
Entered on April 30, 2009

Camden, NJ and my hometown of Haddon Township neighbor each other but could be considered two different worlds. While I live safe and secure in my neighborhood, ten minutes away there are kids living in poverty and surrounded by drugs and violence. The way people from my town view Camden is based upon the news reports and hear-say about the things that take place. People of Camden are usually judged by others from the surrounding middle class towns and are preconceived to be drug addicts, dangerous or to have no morals. In reality, the kids of Camden have dreams of succeeding and making something of their lives just like my friends and I do. It was not until my parents started hosting a youth group for kids from Camden that I realized that I do not have the right to judge someone without getting to know them for who they really are.

There are, of course, residents of Camden who do involve themselves in drugs and gangs but there are also many innocent people who are trapped in the cycle of poverty and are having a hard time escaping such a destructive city. The kids who participate in the Camden youth group come to my house every other Thursday and have always greeted me with enthusiasm and a smile. They accept me for who I am and they love to talk to me so they can get to know who I am, as a person. Thalia, one of the girls from the youth group, has treated me like a friend since I

met her. She is always happy when she sees me and wants to know how I am doing. Her interest in my well-being has made me feel that she cares about me and made me realize that she didn’t judge me before she got to know me.

The kids in the youth group have dreams and plans for their future and these plans do not involve getting caught up in drugs and violence. I have learned from the kids of the Camden youth group that I need to make my own perception of a person based on who I know they are and not on who others say they are. I believe that people should not let stereotypes affect their opinion of others. Often people avoid getting to know some one because they feel that they already know what kind of person they are. Individuals are often judged by where they live, whether it be a ghetto, a suburb or the countryside. It is not right to say that all the people who live in the same area have the same ideals, morals and priorities because people are diverse and everyone has their own mind. Now, when others start to tell me things about another person based on a stereotype, I decide to ignore them and don’t let preconceived notions stop me from finding out who they are, as a person.