Racism Is Real

Trevor - Grand Rapids, Michigan
Entered on May 3, 2013
Themes: race
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I really used to believe that black people or specifically Africans were the only racist people existing. I grew up in-between two villages in southwestern Tanzania, most of the time I was the only white boy around. As I got older I saw the racial divide more and more. I wasn’t black and that prevented me from ever completely fitting in.

I remember growing up I had a passion for hunting. My friends and I would spend hours hunting doves around the compound that I lived on. One day my friends and I were commenting that the game was getting rather scarce around where we lived. I suggested we go to a swamp 17 miles away that my dad had told me about. They were enthusiastic enough, until I told them we would have to walk because my dad couldn’t take us there in the truck. I was confused. Why did they suddenly object to my idea now that we would have to walk? I knew that they had visited the town many times on foot and that was like 30 miles away. I was rather shocked at their response, “you are white, you won’t be able to do it,” of my friends said. When I objected to this, my other friend, noticing that I was upset, said, “It’s not that you can’t, you are white so you shouldn’t.” Only upon my insisting did we go. They soon learned that a white boy could keep up with them, and after that they never doubted my ability to keep up with them physically. My friends accepted that, I could indeed keep up with them physically and I was included in more of their physical activities from then on.

I wake up to my dad telling me that we were there. After the nine hour flight we had finally made it to the United States of America. We grab our bags and head to customs. As I give my passport to the customs officer, I realize that all he sees is that my passport is an American one. He thinks I am like any other American. I returned to the United States thinking, “Finally, I will be in a place where racism doesn’t exist anymore.” I soon found out that not only is racism a problem in the USA, but that black people are not the only racists. During the rest of my stay in the States I realized that is what everyone thinks when they see me, a tall skinny white boy, just another American teenager. From the outside I don’t look different. No one understood who I really was; they would see my race and assume they understood who I was. I began wishing I was black, or Asian, just so they would know that I am different. Sometimes people don’t even believe I am from Africa; they are like, “Naw, that’s where black people are from.” I don’t know if people thought I was a liar or what, but no one cared about who I was, who I really was, an African and an American. I had no friends for many months, and even the ones that I would eventually make seemed shallow to me, because they put no effort towards learning about who I am. I now know that it’s important to keep looking. Some people do want to know more about my past and are curious about who I really am. They have shown me acceptance despite my differences, and they and I have learned that those differences we have disappear with time as we learn more about each other.

Everyone is a victim of racism at some point in their lives. I believe that things don’t have to be this way. I believe that if we are inquisitive, if we are intrigued by our fellow humans even if they look or act differently, we will learn from them. We begin to understand who they really are behind their physical and cultural features, and when we understand who they are we can truly appreciate them. I believe that when that happens racism will no longer exist.

Just like the way my friends learned that I could walk as far as they could, you can learn to appreciate other races and cultures as being capable, and as wonderful as your own. Will you choose to learn, to care?