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National Student Essay Contest - Winner (Grades 7 - 9)

Nicole Fox, Age 13, Grade 8
Palisades Middle School
Kintnersville, PA

A World of Many Colors

Colors. It's funny that such small thing could make such a difference in our world. We all see colors every day, in every place we look. Different colors of animals, objects, and dreams are encountered every moment of our lives. Why, then, is it so hard for the different colors of people? What in our human mind differentiates those individuals with slightly smaller eyes, or darker skin? Why are those who simply look a bit different from many others persecuted?

Though situations have improved since long ago, when slaves were kept and racism was commonplace, people today still are not perfect. Though many of us long to live in a world where color does not matter, our society is still not that idyllic place. People of other races are still considered "minorities", and are still addressed many times according to their ethnic heritage; the terms "blacks" and "Hispanic" are two of many terms often used to describe individuals with darker skin and different colors or customs.

I, too, am one of those who are found guilty of too often judging people by their looks and ethnic backgrounds. Though I do not outwardly oppose these people or criticize them, I do feel a difference between them and myself. Unfortunately, it is this quiet, unspoken discrimination that often hurts most deeply. This racism, the kind kept inside, is what allows the vocal separation to continue. Most of us, when faced with hard ethnical difficulty, turn the other way and pretend to ignore it. It takes a truly brave and caring person to overcome the racial barrier and not feel discrepancy towards another.

Having moved many times in my life, I have encountered many peoples with many ethnic origins. One friendship that shall always remain with me is that of a small boy named Theodore. Teddy, as everyone called him, was a Haitian immigrant. Though he had come to America when he was very young, he still spoke with a bit of an accent and had some trouble adjusting to our schools and ways of life. I first met Teddy when I entered first grade. Though he may not have been our top student, I was endeared by his sweet, quiet manner and his kindness to everyone. A first grader's mind does not comprehend the boundaries of black and white, and sees all colors of the rainbow equally beautiful. The two of us soon became great friends, and were together whenever possible. I can remember helping him with schoolwork and holding his hand as we walked around the halls.

Since then, I have moved many more times and have lost touch with Teddy. Still, even if I did manage to keep our friendship alive, I know that it would not be the same. The time I spent with Teddy was also accompanied by the element of childhood innocence. My indifference to racial diversity is something that, like all others, I have lost as I have gotten older. Given those same circumstances, would I still be able to hold his hand and walk carefree through the halls? Sadly, in all truth I doubt that I would have the courage to be in that sort of a relationship with the black boy who I had become such good friends with when only seven years old.

I only wish that this childhood innocence could still remain with me today. Instead of seeing the world in black and white, we should be able to see various colors and differences as equally unique and wonderful. I pray that racial discrimination can continue to decrease, and the world that will be inhabited by future generations can someday completely demolish ethnic barriers. As Shel Silverstein, the fun, great children's poet wisely put in his verse "No Difference":

" ...Red, black or orange,
Yellow or white,
We all look the same
When we turn out the light."

Hopefully, we will all be able to one day leave racism in the dark and create a bright world without the prejudice of today.

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