This I Believe

Rita - Norfolk, Virginia
Entered on June 20, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: equality, respect
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Living in a society of stereotypes and discrimination, it’s hard to view everyone as the same. I believe in equality, and no matter what a person’s race, gender, religion, or disability is, they’re all equal. At every school I’ve attended and job I’ve held, I hear people talking negatively about someone else. It’s hard to believe such words can come from anyone’s mouth when he/she could very likely be the next victim.

I was the one being talked about and stared at starting my freshman year of high school. I started dating a black boy, and all hell broke loose. We would walk through the mall holding hands; people would stare. We would go to a school play or football game; people would stare. Here we are seven years later and people are still staring and whispering behind our backs. I see him no differently than anyone else. I’ll always see his bright smile, intelligence, and kind heart rather than the color of his skin.

A year ago I volunteered at the Children’s Hospital for the Kings Daughters. I came in contact with children with cancer, burns, disabilities, tumors, and much more. All my friends told me they didn’t know how I could look at them and I told them every time, “I don’t see them any differently than you and me.” I helped hold a paintbrush in a handicapped girl’s hand so she could paint just like the other children. In the end, she had a beautiful picture just like the others.

When I was in elementary school I was friends with everyone. The mentally challenged kids in my school would always chase me around at recess and bring me small presents. It was nothing big, just a rabbit foot on a key chain, old coins, and fake rabbit skins. I never understood why they always chose to come after me in particular, so I mentioned it to my mom. She sat me down and said, “It’s because you’re nice to them Rita and you don’t treat them any differently.” I wouldn’t understand until I was older why they were treated differently by all the other kids.

The world today is becoming more diverse but equality is still not at its fullest. I, as well as people with a different race and disability, continue to get stared at every day. My relationship will not be broken in spite of the fact that others don’t see what I see. I believe in equality and that someday everyone will be treated equal.