2016 Regions Riding Forward® Winning Essay by Liam M.

I live in what one would call "Whitebread America." My school is filled with racists, homophobic, islamophobic, and transphobic people. A friend of mine, Victoria (a very vocal leader in the black history month group in our school), is one of only a handful of African-American students in the school, and having discussions with her, and listening to her lectures in class, has woken me up to the plights of black teens and adults throughout the United States. 

Of her stories, one sticks out the most, in which she was prom dress shopping with her mother and was kicked out of a store because the owner "didn't serve people like her." She made me realize that even though the civil rights movement was years ago, black people still are treated like second class citizens. 

White privilege comes up a lot in discussions with her as well. I mean, why would anyone want to live in a racist society, where some people get killed by police, and some people are praised by them because the color of their skin? The answer is because those that benefit from this society (white people) are too comfortable with their powerful positions. And naturally, people who are comfortable wouldn’t want to give that up, even if it could create an egalitarian society, because that could come at the expense of those in power. That can’t happen if the end goal of civil rights is to create a better world for generations to come.

Because of Victoria, I have become much more outspoken about my beliefs, and in defending others when I am privy to racist or hurtful conversations. She has taught me that sometimes you need to be "in-your-face" about making the world a better place for others, and that a perfect world can't be made without a lot of effort from everyone. 

To conclude, since I met Victoria I have learned more about the world outside of my own little bubble, and I have become more solidified in my beliefs. The world is not perfect, and it's most certainly not fair. There needs to be more outspoken, determined people like Victoria, sharing their experiences and working hard towards a common goal: making the world safer, better, and less ignorant of how privileged certain groups are."


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