Winning Essay by Nivedhitha S. from Texas
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Words are powerful. In today’s age of clickbait and fake news, I feel like we are losing the concept of truth itself. People refuse to believe things that are objectively factual, or believe in other things with no evidence whatsoever. However, there’s no denying one truth: the election of Obama did not indicate the end of racism or injustice in America. Reminding us of truth is why journalists like Ta-Nehisi Coates are so important.
 
The son of a teacher and a librarian, Ta-Nehisi Coates was born in West Baltimore in 1975. His name comes from an Ancient Egyptian word for Nubia, and with a name like “Nivedhitha,” I can personally relate. Today, Coates writes for The Atlantic about social, cultural, and political issues. He also writes a comic book series for Marvel about the superhero Black Panther, but to me, the real hero is the man behind the pen. Coates began writing after his friend Prince Carmen Jones was murdered by a police officer in 2000. At 41 years old, he has already hit the top of the New York Times Best Sellers list, won a Genius Grant from the MacArthur Foundation, and received the National Book Award for nonfiction. To me, Coates is living proof that I don’t have to have immense wealth or age to leave my mark on the world. 
 
As an aspiring writer, I draw inspiration from Coates’s background and career, but his words connect with me even more. He writes with a uniquely insightful and compelling style, delving into complex issues like systemic racism, racial identity, and prejudices of our penal system. For example, he pointed out that America has 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s prison population, which disproportionately affects African Americans. Coate’s words resonate with me. He identifies as an atheist, like me, at a time when atheists are among the most reviled minority groups in the country. When I read his articles, I always learn something new about the world or learn to approach issues from another perspective. The truth is hard, but that doesn’t make it any less important, and the world is a better place for his contributions to society.
 
I was told once that everyone has a window. Everyone has a piece of translucent glass through which we view the world, and our truths are tinted by our preconceived notions, experiences, and ideologies. This window is not necessarily a bad thing, if we don’t allow it to cloud our judgement. I believe Coates is one of those rare people capable of touching people through their windows, exposing injustice and kindling the flame of truth. Someday, I want to be a writer with that same ability. I believe that literature exists as much to raise questions as it does to provide answers. Ta-Nehisi Coates inspires my dream to make the world better by putting out a little more truth, a little more sincerity, and ultimately, by continuing to raise questions. 
 
 
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