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National Student Essay Contest - Second Place (Grades 10-12)

April Taylor
Mount Carmel Academy
New Orleans, LA

"We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal ..." The ringing words of the Declaration of Independence shout to all the world that the great United States of America was founded on the foundation of equality and justice. Yet these ideals, when examined are far from being fully realized. As American's become more aware of their history as well as the future toward which we are headed, citizens realize that to gain true equality for all, we must work hand-in-hand to achieve this ultimate goal. Striving for solidarity means most particularly acceptance of immigrant groups and racial equality.

Americans have struggled with racial fairness since Englishmen stepped off the Mayflower to greet the Native Americans. Since the beginning, Americans have a history of conflict with those of differing racial backgrounds. American Indians were herded to reservations and belittled. Many immigrant groups were also treated as second-class citizens on occasion. During World War II, Asian-Americans were sequestered in concentration-like camps. In the Antebellum South, darker skin color meant slavery and insurmountable prejudice. While African-Americans are no longer enslaved physically, it is still difficult to overcome the deep- rooted prejudices against them. With the centennial anniversary of the Civil War long past, many African Americans still face discrimination regularly. Truly, integration of blacks and whites is a relatively recent development for southerners. As late as 1954, the Brown vs. Board of Education trial brought the first signs of desegregation to the South. Not long afterwards, the radical Martin Luther King, jr. spoke his message of peace, allowing the African-American people to reach a whole new level of equality.

The shadow of a dream that Martin Luther King experienced is emitting a glimmer of hope for those who are ready to change. In the past thirty-five years, since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 went into effect on July 2, 1965, American society has been thrown from heart-breaking racial defeats to overwhelming triumphs for the downtrodden. In the next thirty-five years, all Americans look forward to greater acceptance between races as well as greater equality. In the famous words of Martin Luther King, "I have a dream ..." In the next era of civil rights, we can work for an unprecedented understanding of equality one day and one person at a time. In the next era, people will see the inner value of a person, not the value of his or her skin tone. In the next era, immigrants will not be treated as spies, or those to be mistrusted, but as people who can consummate pre-existing cultural customs by bringing their own flair and brilliance to America. In the next era, the words of equality in the Declaration of Independence will morph from idealistic to realistic.

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