This I Believe

Jesseca - San Lorenzo, California
Entered on March 29, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

“Blood Has No Nationality”

From my first day of school the ethnic cliques were evident. Those standing in front of C-hall were comprised of ninety-nine percent African-American students. Looking over by the Student Government Office I only saw Asians and Pacific Islanders. Between C and D hall, I found where the Latinos congregated. Many students came to school with their country’s flag wrapped around them, claiming to be the “superior race”. Those like I, tend to wander, having friends everywhere but never completely fitting in anywhere.

My freshman year of high school, five students died. A boating accident, a careless driver, an illness, a house fire and a suicide; the student body of Arroyo High

School was pummeled with heartbreak

The two deaths that affected me the most were those of Matthew Sarmiento and Thuan Ho. Matt, as his friends called him, was a Junior, Guamanian male, and was the only person that talked to me when I was a freshman in a class full of upperclassmen. His life was ended in an accidental house-fire that also claimed his cousin, Angel. Thuan was an Asian Sophomore basketball player who was everyone’s friend, died in a hit-and-run. Both deaths shook my racially-divided school to the core. None of us was ever the same again.

After the deaths of so many Arroyo students the cliques began to melt away.

In the days following the deaths, the student body pulled together. The usual division subsided as we realized our common loss. Instead of color we saw the fragility of human life. At the funerals African, Caucasian, Hispanic and Asian students all grieved together. Our differing clothing styles were no longer relevant; the brands we wore, the tones of our skin, these no longer separated us. For a few moments in time we thought beyond ourselves and saw our own mortality.

I wish I could say that since those tragedies we’ve all forgotten our differences for good. Unfortunately, our grief was never properly dealt with. My school simply did not have the resources to handle fifteen-hundred grieving students. Most of us subverted our grief and just tried to forget; fully recovering from five student deaths is a difficult task. Time has passed and those unaware of past events have joined our ranks. Many fell back into old habits. Racial tension became stronger as time passed after the deaths. Our suffocated grief lashed out in racial fights. The progress that once took place is now stunted, but I know it can be different. I was a part of the original shift. I am a witness to what was.

These events, our personal realizations that skin color only means what we allow it to, proved to me that when we put our minds to it we can live without racial divides. We can live as one if we decide to do something about our own prejudices. Skin tone does not define who we are. The tears we cry are all the same color. Blood has no nationality; this I believe.