NOW IS THE TIME
By Hannah L. Seoh
Her speech at oratorical contests
was sponsored by Dayton Club of
Optimist International in 1995, when she was a 9th grader.
She went up to compete at the Ohio-State contest
after winning club, local and regional contests.
I would like for everyone to look at their hand. Right now, take a look at either hand, it does not matter which. What color is it? There is no one word to explain it, is there? Yet, if someone were to come up to you and ask you, “What color is your skin?” you would know the answer. Almost immediately you would reply white, black, yellow, or brown. What do these colors mean? To you and me they may mean nothing, but to others, they can make the distinction between a friend and a foe.
As a Korean-American, I was exposed to racism at an early age. I attended summer camp at the YMCA and kids there would constantly make fun of the way I looked. One kid would always ask me if my face had gotten bulldozed. One particular event will always stick out in my mind. We were choosing teams for a dodge ball game and my sister and I were chosen last. I thought it was because we were young girls, but later I overheard some kids talking. They said something along the lines of, I did not want to play with those Chinese girls. Right then and there, I stopped dead in my tracks. It was like someone had stuck a knife right through my heart. I think back on the day, and it makes me sad because those kids had gotten the idea from somewhere that oriental people were bad, yet at the same time, it also angers me because who were they to judge when they did not even know who we were. I wonder how a parent could give their child such a closed mind about other people. Maybe I could have laughed at that incident because, in fact, I am not Chinese, but racism is no joke at all.
Just within 50 years ago, one man changed the lives of millions of people. Adolf Hitler started what would come to be known as the Holocaust. He wanted to create a master race where all people would have blonde hair and blue eyes, yet Hitler himself was a brunette and had dark eyes. The Jews were people like you and me. They laughed and cried. But more importantly, they had family and friends that were killed for no reason at all. I am willing to bet that no one in this entire world would be able to tell a Jew just by looking at them, yet Hitler chose to exterminate them just because they had different views than himself. Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, and we may not always agree with them. However, that is no excuse to kill people. Most of us claim that we have learned from this mistake, but have we? This idea has never died, but now is the time to end all of that nonsense. Now is the time to end racism.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Martin Luther King Junior said this in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. These are definitely words to live by. Does it matter what color your skin is? Imagine that you are eating some M & M’s. If you closed your eyes, reached into the bag and ate one, would you be able to tell whether it was red, green, orange, yellow, blue, or brown? I honestly don’t think you could. Think of people as a bunch of M & M’s, in the sense that no matter what color we are, we are all human beings.
Now ask yourselves why millions of people chose to follow the crazed ideas of a man they barely knew at all. The answer is because they were simply ignorant. Martin Luther King Junior also said that, “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” And he was right. The ignorance of people cost us millions of innocent lives. It was stupid, senseless killing. And it should never happen again.
We can make sure of that, by doing the following four things. First of all, do not use colors to identify others. If you think hard enough about it, these terms are very silly. White people do not have white skin, and black people do not have black skin. Once we eliminate these words, we may be able to put an end to prejudices. Secondly, do not use stereotypes about race. Granted, certain groups of people may look alike, but everyone is different. No one person is exactly the same as anyone else. Also, remember that there are a few sour apples in every bunch, but if you cut those out, the rest is not so bad after all. Thirdly, learn to look past the skin and look into the heart. It does not matter what is on the outside. It is what is on the inside that counts. But most importantly, spread the word. It all starts with us. If we grow up treating people equally, then we can teach our kids not to be biased. Then, they can teach their kids who can teach their kids and the cycle will go on forever.
We are living in America, but if it were not for our ancestors, who fought for our freedom from England, we would not be here. In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “All men are created equal.” And we are equal. You are no more important than me, and I am no more important than you. Hitler tried to create a master race, but let us band together to make a unified race.
By Hannah Lee Seoh