Imani - aurora, Colorado
Entered on October 22, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: tolerance

Before the day with my cousin, that opened my eyes, I always thought that people that had mental retardation were another part of the human race. My belief was, “Since I’m not going to be like them, and I don’t have peers like them, why should I care about them?” One moment I always regret was an incident when I was laughed and made fun of a person with mental retardation. One day, my cousin and I were playing basketball. A man with mental retardation wondered off from his care keeper next door. As he started walking, to what seemed to be to, join our basketball game he slipped on some rocks in my front yard. I laughed because at that time it was very comical, though I did not know what was in store for me. A few years after the incident, I went out to Texas to visit my aunts, uncles, and cousins. During my stay, I visited my Uncle Pete. When I arrived at his house, I noticed that it was a very poor neighborhood that had very worn looking houses. When we arrived, my uncle, aunt and cousins came out to greet us, and I noticed a very odd looking girl. Little did I know, it was my cousin. After a couple hours of conversation, my grandparents and I left to the hotel. During car ride back, I asked my grandmother why my cousin looked so different than me. Why were her teeth crooked? I also was confused on why she acted just like me. She did not look like a regular kid, so why did she act like one? Her appearance and actions confused me because I wondered why she looked so different, but why she wanted to do the activities that I wanted to do. My grandmother told me my cousin was born mentally retarded, due to her mother’s drug use. After this eye opening experience, I was confused and left wanting to know more. As I grow older, I have sought answers to help me understand why my cousin looked as she did, yet acted like a regular kid. So now when someone says “You’re so retarded”, or “That’s so retarded”, I become angry, knowing that being “retarded” is not a classification. Also, People living with this disability want to pursue the same goal that all humans strive for, to live. I believe that one should not judged based on race, religion, sexual orientation, or their abilities or disabilities, because no one is perfect. I’ll always follow an important statement, my best friend said to me, “Judge, but only with a gavel”.