2018 Essay Contest Winners
DFCLT is pleased and proud to announce the winners of the 2018 Dennis Farm Forum Student Essay Contest winners, based on the topic, “It Begins with Each of Us: Fostering Racial Understanding.”
First Place, Felicia Hallworth; Second Place, Loretta Owusu; Third Place, Mary Ann Bogert.
The Dennis Farm Charitable Land Trust 2018 Essay Contest
I am a caucasian, upper middle class citizen who was raised across several suburban neighborhoods from Maryland to Virginia and even Georgia. Living in these communities allowed me to see how people were treated, as well as how others were viewed. Since I spent most of my childhood moving around, this oftentimes made me an outsider. It also meant there were no boxes I was supposed to fill, and I could define myself however I chose.
I decided to become the keeper of the unwanted and weird kids, the kids no one took a second glance at or gave a helping hand to. Most of my life was spent being unaware of the racial disparity in America. I went to school with African American kids, and I was friends with them, so I assumed race was not an ongoing issue. The only people I saw as racists were rednecks that used a hard r to describe darker kids goofing around.
This changed when I arrived at Keystone. My first roommate was an African American young lady by the name of Ayana Lanier-Hunter. I was not afraid to room with her or get to know her; in fact, I hoped we would become close friends. The thing that changed when I arrived at Keystone were the white people who occupied the space around me. Most of my white friends from back home were relatively progressive and did not show any outward biases toward people of color. At Keystone, I began to notice comments that the white folks would say in reference to my roommate. They would exclaim, “Oh, you’re not really black. I don’t like those ghetto black girls that are always loud.” Others would call her an “Oreo” and make fun of the way she talked, unaware that her voice was a coping mechanism for fitting in to the white world, so she could become more successful. Everything she did was to appear less than what she was, a beautiful black woman.
Society uses race as a way to define us, regardless of the fact that white girls dismiss the warning of skin cancer to sit in tanning booths, so they can become more pigmented like people of hispanic descent. What makes society give them positive attributes, while people of actual hispanic ancestry are taken by ICE for wanting a better life? Race is supposedly determined by skin tone, but it refuses to accept that people from different backgrounds come in a variety of pigments which cannot be strictly defined by a color scale.
Although race is a myth, racism is not. People like to pretend that it was a problem for our grandparents which was solved by the civil rights movement, but it has potentially become more relevant today than it was in those times. News outlets are bombarded with stereotypes day and night, sports games are sprinkled with peaceful protest, and even our 2016 presidential elections were not safe from racial tensions. As I watched the current president of the United States, I could not help but wonder, “How can these people not see that he is directly manipulating them?” But an answer never surfaced. This fear of “the other” is so deeply entrenched in American society that racism was the deciding factor to elect the supposedly most forceful leader in the world. However, a leader who utilizes fear as its primary source of power is one of the weakest. Although fear is a powerful emotion that has driven many people toward hate rather than understanding, hope is stronger.
Everyday we see police brutality and the death of people of color. The only foreseeable positive outcome is to bring hope to these people. Although involvement is necessary, the white savior complex is not my calling. I cannot be a leader when I have not had an authentic black experience in America. For the most part, my understanding is second hand at best, so how am I as a person supposed to tell these people how they should improve their circumstances? However, I intend to be a strong ally, ready to intervene in situations in which my white privilege may be used against the system to help those being discriminated against. I hope to be a part of the change in American history and will gladly follow those who will be fierce black leaders in this nation.
Dennis Farm Essay Contest
Although racism has been declining through educational efforts over the years, it is one of the most important social issues of today. Due to societal norms, racism has become less outwardly expressed, yet racially motivated prejudices continue to be commonplace. This essay will encompass several aspects regarding race including: the myth of race, the effects stereotyping, the immorality of racism, and the dangerous effects of racism and how it affects people in our society.
The myth of race constructed by our society has utilized a person’s skin color to divide rather than unite us. This concept is a form of inferiorization which has dramatically altered our perceptions of others and ourselves. The use of race categorization can implement glass ceilings and diminish one’s full potential. Determination of race leads to variety of implications, such as discrimination and stereotyping.
Although stereotyping harbors judgement and misunderstanding, it appears that each racial group has a stereotype of one another. During my time at Keystone College, I encountered a girl named Angela. One day, she asked a friend of mine if I possessed any drugs. I was shocked that she thought of me as a substance abuser. Wondering her motive, I asked her why she assumed I had drugs. She unabashedly said “All black people do drugs.” I was astonished, appalled, overwhelmed, and very disappointed that her stereotype of me was so negative.
Stereotyping can be beneficial or detrimental depending on the group it is applied to. Sophomore year, two of my roommates from Pennsylvania revealed their true selves as racist stereotypers. When I spent time with them, they always had negative comments regarding African Americans. As soon as they made the comment, they would assure me, “You’re African and not black like those other people.” This exclamation infuriated me. I attempted to get them to see it from another perspective, that regardless, African or black, these negative comments affect us equally. They continued to make these comments and exposed their refusal to understand people that did not look like them.
It appears that a lineage of racism has been formed throughout the years. People who are racist may have been raised to think negatively and feel hatred those who they consider to be inferior to them. Racism stems from learned family values, cultural illiteracy and social pressures. People continue to be discriminatory even though the United States is one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse countries in the world.
I know it is biased, but I have stereotyped the nearby community in Factoryville, PA. This is because the people seemed to be part of an older generation when open racism was socially acceptable. I feared walking around due to the ideologies that I believed the locals possessed. As I got involved in the community, my perception of the individuals contradicted previous stereotypes I held. This made me realize that not everyone in our society is racist. Although I am more tolerant of the public, I continue to get strange looks and evasive actions from locals on my walk to the college. Due to ongoing misconceptions, time and conversations are needed to clear rational fears of others and promote understanding of one another.
Race does not only lead to discrimination and stereotyping but also prejudice, the negative actions taken based on the race of an individual. Prejudiced actions can be seen frequently with authoritative personnel such as police officers abusing their power and brutally assaulting citizens. There have been numerous cases when an African American did not possess any weapons or perform suspicious activities, but they were killed due to racial profiling.
The myth of race and stereotyping encourage violent and hateful crimes. There is a way to prevent misunderstandings within our community based on racial and cultural differences. Conversation could create a change by allowing people to realize the similarities among ourselves. This will also let communities celebrate their differences based on color, religion and culture. Education and holding events, such as this one, will hopefully expand people’s knowledge of race and allow them to take actions to aid one another. The goal for a community is to harbor togetherness and acceptance, and this begins with each individual person.
Mary Ann Bogert
DFCLT 2018 Essay Contest
Racial and Cultural Diversity in America: Embrace Not Repudiate
A Brief History of Slavery and Immigration
The inception of plantations in mid-seventeenth century America brought about the transatlantic slave trade, where hundreds of thousands of African people were seized from their homes and families. For the next two hundred years the lives of the enslaved were plagued by brutality from white American “masters” (whose ancestors ironically left England because of religious persecution). The Thirteenth Amendment established freedom and eradicated slavery throughout the United States, equality was another matter entirely. Segregation was adopted and for the next hundred years “separate but equal” established how equality would be handled in the United States. Equal rights were finally affirmed through the Civil Rights Act of 1964, yet this has yet to come to fruition because of enduring stereotypes and anachronistic ideals.
In a like manner, tens of thousands of Asian and European people were forced to immigrate to the United States, due to kidnapping and indentured servitude of convicted felons, between the mid-nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Albeit, the majority of immigrants, numbering in the hundreds of millions, came to the United States in search of economic opportunities and freedom from religious prosecution. Whether voluntary or involuntary, an immigrant’s arrival did not necessitate equality to the resident Americans. Instead, immigrants were discriminated against and oppressed due to their customs, beliefs and/or skin color. Moreover, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, banning discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin, again did not help immigrants due to the archaic beliefs of the white majority.
After contemplating each of the discussion topics, “The Myth of Race”, “Fear of ‘the Other’”, “The Immorality of Racism” and “The Dangerous Effects of Racism”, and upon careful reflection of each panelist’s presentations, two common themes become obvious; empathy and education are our most formidable instruments for fostering racial understanding between diverse cultures and races.
We have an ethical responsibility to be empathetic to the plight of the diverse individuals we are surrounded by, for it is only by placing oneself in their situation that you are truly able to understand the difficulties they have had to overcome.
Dr. Patrice Lynn Jeppson, during her panel discussion on “The Myth of Race”, cited a profound quote by Nelson Mandela, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” With this in mind, education can be used to influence a person’s thoughts and feelings, and history has shown us it can be used negatively to alienate and objectify people of different races and ethnic backgrounds. We must now strive to heal our communities through education; by coming together and speaking to our commonalities we can see that we are indeed not very different.
In conclusion, I have resided in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania for majority of my lifetime and have seen this community change in many ways. For a time, racism and violence were what brought this community together, but things have begun to change in recent years. Solidarity has erupted throughout the city as individuals realized a common goal; by embracing each other’s diversity this community can stand together, put a stop to the violence, and begin to heal. Through early education in schools and public events such as the Multicultural Parade & Festival, diversity education and understanding are occurring at many levels, making a better community for everyone. It only takes one individual to start making a change, why not let that person be you?