The Reach of Discrimination
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Spending two years of my childhood on the island of Guam allowed me to see, at an early age, what it was like to live with people different from me. The military kids and native kids wouldn't mix that often, unless it was at the public school, but during the times we did interact, I don't recall any explicit scenes of discrimination or prejudice. We seemed to get along, and our teachers were a mixture of military parents and native parents. For those years, I remember thinking that, the only major differences between any of us were our various personalities, and that the color of our skin was a non-issue. When my family moved back to the U.S. I was again presented with classrooms full of folks from different backgrounds, ethnicities, and social classes. But this time, people were keenly aware, and disparaging at times, of those who were different. Being mixed race, I recall being called various ethnic slurs, since nobody quite knew what group I fell under. And truthfully, I didn't know what group I fell under either. The only time I can recall Martin Luther King being mentioned in the classroom is when our teachers would discuss the MLK Holiday and how it would affect lesson plans. (We may have had lessons on Civil Rights history, but I don't remember them if we did.) Once I did learn about the Civil Rights Movement, it made me realize, first, that the things I went through certainly did not compare to some of the atrocities that people went through during the 50s, 60s, and 70s. It also made me realize that similar acts of discrimination have happened and continue to happen with other ethnic and minority groups, like the LGBT community, and in various communities around the world. Discrimination isn't limited to one person, one group, or one country. As an adult, it's nice to see greater civic responsibility in teaching people about Civil Rights. The internet is a great tool to spread information easily and effectively to a wide variety of people who wouldn't otherwise see it, like the His Dream, Our Stories web site and all the stories contained within it. Over time, I think it is possible for social change to affect people in a positive way, albeit sometimes slowly, and sometimes with setbacks. That's why we will always have to educate our children (and adults) about the struggles that people face with discrimination, and keep reminding them of the Civil Rights Movement, movements like it, and the daily lives of those who have suffered in the push for equality.