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Racism and Prejudice: Yesterday or Today? This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Did you know that in some areas of theSouth your race decides what color Christmas lights youdecorate your house with? Caucasians are expected to havewhite lights while African-Americans use colored lights. Butif you reside north of the Mason-Dixon line, you may not beaware of the racism that remains in Southern life even today.If I hadn't lived in Memphis, Tennessee for four years I, too,would think the civil rights movement ended all injusticetoward African-Americans. On the contrary, I encounteredracism firsthand on several occasions.

The mostmemorable incident that belittled African-Americans involvedour cleaning lady and my brother's closest friend, Brent.Ella, who happened to be black, was a very caring andtrustworthy individual. And so my parents hired her tobaby-sit us while they attended a business conference. Wewelcomed her into our home without hesitation and gave her thesame accommodations we would a relative: a bedroom, bathroomand a place at the dinner table. Much to our surprise, Brentquestioned Ella's rights, asking, "You're actuallyletting her sleep in one of your beds and eat at the tablewith you?" We had never thought of treating Elladifferently because of her race. I was startled to discoverthat Ella did sleep on the floor rather than in the bedbecause she, like Brent, felt uncomfortable with thearrangement, despite our warm welcome. This shocking situationmade me realize that many events I would witness in the

South would contradict my

family'svalues.

My parents' effort to shelter us from racistviews was a difficult and unending task. Racism presenteditself in the most public places. According to my dad, evenbarbers demonstrated these prejudiced attitudes. During onevisit, the barber talking to other customers while cutting mybrother's hair repeatedly used the derogatory N_____ whenreferring to an African-American. My dad strongly disapprovedof his choice of words and asked him not to use suchinappropriate language in front of my brother who was onlyseven. This incident was not unusual, but my parents tried toshelter us.

The lasting effects of slavery are evidentin the difficulty in changing these deep-rooted opinions.African-Americans were granted the same rights as whites, yetAfrican-American police officers in the South are thoughtunworthy of giving a white person a ticket.

Althoughprejudice in our school occurs on a much smaller scale, it isdefinitely present. We tend to judge one another bydiscrepancies in interests. The recent massacre at ColumbineHigh School made me realize that such issues might not seemserious until something tragic happens. Our school is verycliquish and faces prejudice problems that can only becorrected with the cooperation of the entire student body. Inthis way, our school is similar to the prejudiced people Iencountered in the South.

No matter where we live, wemust co-exist peacefully with others. There is no reason forus to judge others, because we only tend to hate in otherswhat we dislike in ourselves.



This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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