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I have no recollection of the following incident, but my mom enjoys telling me about it often: When I was about two years old, my mother's African American friend Larry came into town to visit. Upon his arrival, he and my mother walked into the living room and began reminiscing about their college years spent at UC Davis. After a few minutes, I got up from playing with my blocks and wandered into the living room to see who our visitor was. I stood there and looked at Larry for some time. Then, without a word, I walked up to where he was sitting and took his hand in mine. I looked at the top of his dark hand curiously and then turned it over to discover its white underside. My eyes moved from his hand to his face and then to his hand again. Seemingly satisfied with what I saw, I strolled back over to my blocks. My young mind only noticed a difference between Larry and me, but I passed no judgment, for I had grown up in a nonracist home that strongly believed that what lies within a person's heart determines their worth.

It overwhelms me to think of the endless possibilities that would emerge if people today could see someone of a different race than themselves and acknowledge their differences without thinking any less of them. It saddens me to think of the horrific ways people treat each other now, especially in the United States. I mean, people look to the United States as an example of equality and equal opportunity; if people don't change soon, though, Americans will lose hope, "for where does one run to when he's already in the promised land?" (from Claude Brown's book Manchild in the Promised Land). -- Emma Seemann, Carlsbad H.S. graduate

Being from a well-off white family, I would not be considered a usual target of discrimination. However, it was racism that caused my parents to move from Russia to America. Since the time of the Russian monarchy, Jewish people in Russia (among other places) have been persecuted, both publicly and privately. Though my family had only a fraction of Jewish blood, my parents, afraid that my brother and I would be teased and discriminated against in school, left behind our entire family and moved to a foreign country. My parents have succeeded in protecting us. I had not encountered any kind of discrimination in my 11 years in America -- even having lived in Detroit -- until junior year of high school. In art class, my fellow students had begun a conversation about religion. I was not interested in the discussion until they began talking about religion and compatibility. The two self-proclaimed Catholic guys agreed that they could never marry a Jew, going on to list stereotypical Jewish character flaws. I was appalled. Here I was, halfway across the globe, in a predominantly white, educated community, and facing the discrimination that my parents sought to avoid.

Now, I myself have some prejudiced opinions; everyone does. That does not mean that I go around espousing racist or sexist propaganda. The difference between a normal human being who is inherently prejudiced in some way and one we call racist is in how they express their beliefs. Sharing racist jokes with a close family member may not be politically correct, but the majority of people do it, and it is generally harmless. Problems arise when people take their opinions a step further and act on them in a way that harms or offends.

There is no way to eradicate racism. Even if people do not share their opinions publicly, they will always have some prejudiced beliefs. All we can do is promote peace and eliminate the possibility of hate crimes. -- Jennie Matusova, La Jolla H.S.

Racism was first made apparent to me when I was around nine years old. I remember watching a program on TV that showed the Ku Klux Klan. I saw crosses burning and heard Klan members talking disgustedly about African Americans. I remember on that show I saw men and babies dressed in white sheets that made them look like ghosts. The hateful behavior baffled my mind; I'd never heard of such terrible deeds. The only thing I recall being aware of was that the images elicited feelings in me I never experienced before; I knew that those men dressed in white had no good intentions. Since then, I've become more aware of the little jokes and comments about minorities. They were obviously derived from more serious and consequential actions years ago.

I don't witness any acts of racism regularly, but here and there I hear pieces of information that prove racism still exists. I heard a story that a few African Americans got on a bus but there were no seats available except those in the back. So, the bus driver told them to go sit in the back. That caused a confrontation and showed that racism still affects people.

I have found that older people from the South still have racist tendencies. They grew up in the midst of segregation between whites and blacks and lived with the idea that nothing was wrong with that. People mold themselves according to how they grew up. Their experiences and what they witnessed grew on them because that is all they knew. Therefore, the Southern elderly have a tendency to think how they did while growing up, which in most cases involves racism.

Although such racism has died down considerably, it will never be fully destroyed. Minorities now have an automatic defensive outlook on others because of the terrible past their ancestors endured. This usually results in counterracism. As long as any prejudice among any persons exists, racism will, too. It will never be demolished because of the past and the grudges people hold because of the events of history. -- Lexie Sebring, Carlsbad H.S. graduate

I cannot remember the first time I heard a racist remark; it seems as if the insults and the attitudes have always been there. I hear racism from a group of immature pre-teens who giggle while watching the movie Roots. They giggle at the word "nigger." I hear racism at 7-Eleven, where migrant workers wait patiently for a job. Some people walk by and feel embarrassed for their hardship. People should feel embarrassed for the teenagers driving away, Slurpees in hand, yelling "wetbacks!" out the window.

As an adolescent, I witness racism from others my age. It's gotten to the point where I'm used to it. It's gotten to the point where kids will deem it "all in good fun" and everyone just shrugs it off. The sad part is people think the "real" racism is over. People think that the '60s are over and we can all move on. We have moved on, but we've moved on to a different kind of racism, the kind of racism that is so often ignored, is given the opportunity to grow stronger and turn into a common attitude that is not only tolerated but expected.

Our racism doesn't involve Jim Crow laws and lynching, so people think it's no big deal; it's only words, so where's the harm? I'd love to say there is no harm, but I can't. And here's the kicker: we can't have sit-ins, we can't have marches, and we can't throw rallies because it's impossible to start a cause for a problem that people don't believe exists.

Hopefully, the next time you hear a racist remark you'll take the time to listen because then you'll hear the raw, natural ugliness. Then we'll be aware of a problem that we can finally start to fix. -- Andres Perez, Valhalla H.S.

Despite our nation's many efforts to abolish racism, it still affects us strongly today. In my life I haven't experienced many different occasions where racism was present. In my small town there are not many other races than Caucasian so I haven't experienced any specific examples of racism.I have seen many movies with racist views or examples. One of those movies, Crash, opened my eyes to how people act toward other races. It amazes me how someone could look at someone else differently only because of skin color.

No one in my family is in any way racist, and I believe that is why I have been so sheltered from those views in my life. I hope that one day in the future people can get past their racist views; yet I doubt that will happen because some people are so narrow-minded. -- Natalie Venolia, Ramona H.S.

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