As we celebrate MLK Day and the approach of Black History Month, we asked our high school students to reflect on the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement and how they view the state of our nation today.

They were given a series of 9 prompts and could choose one that spoke to them. Student Ari M. from Animo Pat Brown Charter High School chose to answer the question, “How does racism affect you?” This was their response:

Everyone has heard of racism. It’s in politics and society in general. Racism is discrimination against races such as: Latinx, Black, White, Asians, and other races. Why does it matter? Why should I care? In this essay, I will discuss why racism is such a grave issue.

I am Ari Martinez, a Latino from South Los Angeles. When people think about Latinx, what would they likely think? One particular person I have seen saying racist comments is the President of the United States. We’re “rapists,” “criminals,” “narcos,” you name it. Why should you care? Racism is an epidemic to the United States of America as well as other countries like the United Kingdom. In news reports, I see racism consistently against minorities such as the Latinx community. Even a news report by Suzanne Gamboa, reporter for NBC Latino and NBCNEWS.com, talks about Latinx people being racially profiled. In this case, two U.S.-born Latino women were detained by a Border Patrol agent last May for simply speaking Spanish in a convenience store; the American Civil Liberties Union recently sued U.S. Customs and Border Protection over that. This report and others related to this that Gamboa wrote are an ever-growing problem to this country called the United States of America.

What does this say about our country, citizens, humanity, and the world in general? This means that this country I was born and raised, as well as other countries like the United Kingdom, are very discriminative against minorities? What does this say about humanity? The differences in races? This means that other races are worthless and should not even be cared about.

I myself have never experienced “hardcore” racism, but I have experienced racial profiling. I remember that it was later on in the day and I walked with my mom to either go to the grocery store or the beauty salon for a haircut. All of a sudden, I see a police officer in a car, driving close to the sidewalk where I was walking. After glancing back at the sidewalk, where I was walking with my mom, I noticed, from the side of my eye, the same police officer continuing to follow me. Immediately, I started feeling furious as I have had similar encounters like this one before. The police officer observing me caught me off guard to this day, because I did not have anything in my hands, my hands were visible, and I was not walking weird, for the police officer to suspect that I had a gun or drugs hidden. Now, when I go walking, I am afraid that one day a police officer will profile me and arrest me without any justifiable reason.

To this day, I strongly believe that my skin color and race, played a major role on how the police officer was looking at me because the racism my community faces, have similar experiences like mine. I cannot change the way people see other races, but I can bring awareness to this grave problem and possible solutions.

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