The Outsiders

Barbara - Plainsboro, New Jersey
Entered on January 5, 2008
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: prejudice
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“Prejudice” is a dangerous word, an evil concealed under the pretense of peace. Even when people presume it has been defeated, it waits stealthily in people’s hearts. It makes people feel uncomfortable and unsafe. It makes them feel like outsiders.

I live in a typical small town. My school is well integrated, where the minorities are as numerous as the majority. I thought that in such an environment, prejudice would not exist. Yet, I have experienced the effects of prejudice. It has prevented people from accepting one another and hurt many more. I believe that people should not be judged by the color of their skin. As a student, I was taught about the importance of equality. I recognized achievements of Martin Luther King, who had sacrificed his life for peace. I learned about the ordeal of slavery and segregation that had nearly torn America apart from within. I learned that the principles I was taught in school would be utilized in reality.

I remember the typical recess period on a serene autumn day. My friends and I were playing a game until we became another group’s target.

They outnumbered us, intimidated us. The school was always divided. These students never considered themselves part of a whole community. They never considered themselves the same as us. It was always “us against them”. The other group mocked us, and called us derogatory names. Then one individual deliberately threw a ball at my classmate’s face, breaking his glasses and hurting him in the process.

The translucent image of harmony that I was holding onto was shattered. I knew that prejudice could not completely be obliterated, but I was shocked that my classmates could act so ruthlessly. Why were we any different from them? These were people that I talked to, saw in class everyday. They were people that I previously trusted to be at least decent.

Those students never mentioned the incident again. In days, the entire event was beyond recollection. I tried to suppress the memory, but the experience had given me new perspective. I cannot take that back no matter what I do. Their prejudice had revealed a part of them that I distrusted.

The blame cannot be laid upon one person or one group. It is not so simple. I am not ashamed of my ethnicity, but there is a thin line between confidence and extremism. The problem of prejudice evolves from a combination of pride and preconceptions. Eventually these feelings become a sense of superiority and ultimately hate. Then the crisis begins.

I wish I could take back that perspective that is part of who I am now. I see the world differently now. I am not naïve anymore. I wish for many things that can never come true. I believe in the devastating effects of prejudice. I believe that people should not be stereotyped as a group, but considered as an individual. But most significantly, I believe in the prevailing power of love and equality.