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Eth 125

In: Social Issues

Submitted By waynec1983
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Living in Watervliet was an adjustment. From the moment we moved there, we realized we had to adjust our way (myself, wife and son) of thinking and the way we viewed people. The neighborhood was no longer the brown African American faces we had become accustom to, now the brown faces were that of people of Arab descent and a lot of white faces. Our first couple of days in the neighborhood, we were greeted with “hello” and “welcome to the neighborhood” by most, some even stopped by to drop off baked items. We felt more and more comfortable as the weeks went on and we became more acclimated to the area. Its wasn’t until we got our son settled into school that started to realize that the seemingly cozy neighborhood was actually struggling with races and religion issues that should have long been settled.

As I became closer to my neighbors, we developed a close friendship with a community member named David and his family. They were born in Iraq, and moved to the United States in the early 70’s, they spoke English with a slight accent, but had adjusted to the way of American culture for the most part. After visiting their home I noticed that they were Muslim, as David and his wife and children would leave to go pray at particular times through the day. In talking I found that David had nowhere to pray, there were churches all around, but none served the religious beliefs of any one who wasn’t Catholic or Christian. David had told me that his children also were not allowed to pray in the school, he had brought up the issue at several different town meetings, but nothing was ever done to change or make him and his family or any other none Catholic or Christian families feel more at ease.

I wanted to see if what David was telling me was true, so I started attending regular town meetings, to my surprise there were more African American families than I realized and a few other minority groups (2 Asian families, 3 Arab). The local town leader Lisa was a white woman, who seemed to cater to the wants of the white families. She would take notes and say she wanted to change some things in the school and in the neighborhood, but didn’t have enough votes to do so. I found it rather disturbing that in this day and age students were not learning about African American history, outside of the month of February, and if it was not a discussion about Martin Luther King, no African American pioneers were ever taught to the children. Furth more, the Asian and Arab children heritage was not taught at all. When presented to Lisa as to why there was such limited education for the history about minorities, she brushed it off and stated that the children were learning American history.

Armed with the response I received from Lisa, I went to the local television station to report the problem; I finally got someone to listen. One of David’s friends happens to get a job at the station and we pushed the story of the injustice that was facing our community. The story eventually made it to the national news and questions started to arise as to why there was so much separation in a town that had seemed to be so progressive. They first interviewed the minority families trying to gauge what we were looking for, the changes we wanted. They then did the same for the white families, when it was all said and done, it was a small group of families that had lived in the town for generations that were not comfortable with the minority groups that had moved in and they were paying Lisa to change votes and everything as status quo.

It was so strange in the year 2012; we could still have such separation amongst different races of people. We all made about the same amount of money, some a little more, some a little less, but all owned our homes. We all respected one another, we may have prayed to different Gods, and may have been born in different places, but we were all still human. The town eventually decided to no longer have a one person community leader; it would now have everyone have a voice. Town meetings were held regularly and votes were done in public. Not everyone was going to be happy with the votes of others, but at least they would be public knowledge.

We changed a lot with the community as the years passed. Schools started to teach more about the different minority groups we had coming into the community. There were local learning workshops for better cultural understanding and acceptances. It was a lot to ask of a group of people who were not accepting to change, to be forced to change overnight. I am glad that over time, the town became more integrated, we had more interracial couples, we built a Masque, and we became more understanding of one another. It was a cultural change for me and my family, we went from the group of African American dominated area, to what we thought would be “better America”. Only to find that better America had not followed its own rules of accepting every man and woman. The barriers that still needed to be knocked down in the school system and community was a fight but well worth it.

The community I described involved segregation, isolation, integration and acceptance. This is what most African Americans face once you move into a neighborhood they deem “upscale” or the “suburbs”. Often times the news media is not concerned with the injustices that face minority groups unless it has the potential to roll over into their nice neighborhoods. African Americans are usually on the news for crimes they commit, not for the success they have achieved. Other minority groups are looked at as commodities, your local doctor, store owner, the idea that they are tolerated because they are needed rather than because they are accepted.

Races is something that will continue to be a fight, because it involves change and acceptance to something different than what you may be used to. The idea of change is hard for some, and easy for others. We cannot look down on those who are hesitant to accept change, ignorance comes with the territory, and not all ignorance is the fault of the person who is ignorant. Proper teaching tools is the key to change, there will always be those who believe that change is bad and you can never change their mind, but for those who embrace change, it leads us into a community and world of better people. Our children can grow and learn to love one another for who they are, rather than the color of their skin, or country they were born in. It starts with us, what we do not know about someone, we should take the time out to get to know. The moment you stop learning is the moment you stop living is what I believe.…...

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