This I Believe

Britny - Middlefield, Ohio
Entered on December 21, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

The Human Race

Britny Gray is a junior at Cardinal High School in Middlefield, Ohio, a town with a population of less than 5,000 people. She is a member of flag line, Key Club, class officers, and other extracurricular activities. Her Grandmother taught her almost everything she knows, and raised Britny throughout a chaotic childhood.

Growing up in a small town, I never really encountered racism first hand. Everyone was exactly the same: white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, down-home folks. The only black people I really knew were a couple friends and my cousin, all of whom were mixed. Naturally, my family is very tolerant of others, so I was raised in a very loving, left-wing group of non-hating people.

My first experience with racism came three years ago, during the summer before my freshman year of high school. I was at my cousin’s softball game, with my whole family. Sports are kind of a big deal in my household. As we cheered my cousin on, a sophomore already pitching on varsity, a lady behind us “whispered”, though none to softly, “you must have to be black or something to play on this team!” Here was a woman I’d known for my whole life, someone whose kids I’d played with, talking about my cousin’s skin color! I was furious; I knew if I turned around I would say something I would regret. So instead I leaned over and said to my mom “you must have talent to play on this team.” A gasp from behind me said that a certain someone knew I’d heard her, and that same someone apologized to me soon after.

After that incident at the softball game, I started to notice that my small town wasn’t the rosy world I’d always thought it was. I noticed odd glances when I went to everyday places with my now numerous black friends. The greeters at Wal-Mart would even look at me like I was Judas himself! The whole thing came to a climax when I went to the movies with my friends Tera, who happens to be white, and Justin, who just happens to be black. On the way home, about 11:15, we were pulled over by a Middlefield police officer. After a lengthy interrogation of who we were, why we were together, and what we were doing out, the cop demanded that we follow him to the station. He then literally pulled me and Tera out of the car and dragged us into the station. I thought he was going to cuff Justin. Tera and I were held until 1:30am, when he decided to call our parents. We’d been there for over three hours. During that time, Tera and I’d been talking about the fact that he’d never told us what we did wrong. I later realized what had happened: two little white girls with a black guy. For a bigot cops, it was a field day.

I considered filing a grievance against the officer, but I knew it wouldn’t stop. Racism isn’t something you can put on paper. It’s the feeling that you get when people stare, like a white woman and a black man, or vice versa, is an abomination to God. It’s the way people stereotype each other, just to make one “race” look better. But why do we even have races at all? Is it really that important? I think we should all just be humans! As the Jewish theologian Abraham J. Heschel once said, ““Racism is man’s gravest threat to man…”, so instead of hating other for their skin color or where they’re from, I’m going to spend my life loving and promoting my race: the human race.