This I Believe

Ransford - 37804, Tennessee
Entered on September 13, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
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Despite your ethnicity, you have likely pondered. “Is it possible for people from different backgrounds to get along?” Unfortunately, many people dislike others because of their racial differences. Most of us choose to be around people from the same race. We find racial differences to be a burden or a threat; we would rather be with those with whom we share an identity. However, doing this, people become cross-culturally illiterate.

I was born in Suyani, Ghana, which is home to the kente cloth. At the age of ten, I moved to the Bronx, New York, which is mainly populated by Latinos, Africans, Jamaicans, and African Americans. In the Bronx, people mingled with those who shared similar traditions.

After school, I spent time with my best friend Yaw, another Ghanaian. Yaw and I reminisced about the good old days in Ghana. Every person I spent time with was another Ghanaian. On Jerome Avenue, with countless crimes between Ghanaians and African Americans, my uncle cautioned me to only have Ghanaian friends. With them, I found a sense of identity.

Being accustomed to only Ghanaian friends, I rationalized why I didn’t spend time with people from other races. I thought African Americans hated us and believed that we, native Africans, sold them into slavery. Also, I thought all Latinos were “gang-bangers” and untrustworthy. Therefore, I never tried to find the truth about them but continued to believe my stereotypes.

After middle school, I moved to Douglasville, Georgia. There, people were either White or Black. Douglasville was more peaceful than the Bronx. I was the only Ghanaian at my school and sometimes the only Black student in my classes. I felt isolated.

I stayed home looking out my window and reminiscing about New York. As I observed my six year old cousin Angela, I began to reconsider my self-imposed isolation. Angela, the only Black girl in our neighborhood, had a difficult time finding friends. Despite her troubles, she never gave up. Even though some kids rejected her, she stayed optimistic. I began to comprehend that my stereotypes originated from not having interracial friends. I also recognized that many adults form stereotypes about racially different people and are afraid to take risks to associate with them while their children are often willing to do so. Some adults even become so rigid they punish children for taking risks that they should be taking.

Before I came to the States as a child, I was innocent about stereotypes. I picked up my stereotypical thoughts from older people. I stereotyped African Americans, Whites, Latinos and anyone racially different from me because I was discouraged from having interracial friends. Likewise, I believe the parents of the children who denied Angela’s friendship played a role in their decisions. I believe that for us to get along with racially different people, we have to embrace racial and cultural differences, value and learn from them rather than seeing these differences as a threat.