Martin Luther King Day Tribute

Note to Self: Send Robert a Thank You Card

Image of Martin Luther King, Jr.It was around forty years ago that the United States was in a civil turmoil. Boycotts, sit-ins, and riots were rocking the nation, leaders such as MLK and Malcolm X were exclaiming speeches in public squares; people were taking up arms against racism, against discrimination…To most of us, it seems like something that happened in another country, something seen with black and white flickering film showing the social inequalities in a distant land…

It started out only as an inkling here and there…It was only two years ago that I finally could put a name on the feeling – I felt discriminated against…I was never treated differently in elementary school, sure people asked me what my cane was and how I used my Braille Notetaker, but that was mere curiosity…It was only in seventh or eighth grade that I started noticing little things. My friends would ask me if I wanted them to take my paper up for me. I had dismissed it for a long time as them just being nice, but I noticed that they never asked anyone else but me…The worst instance of what I characterize as discrimination came in tenth grade. We were assigned groups in Geometry for a project, I had been paired with a boy named Robert…Later that day, my best friend Michelle, who sat at a large table with Robert at lunch, told me that he had informed the table that he was partnered with me, and everyone had expressed their sympathies…They had seen me turn in essays and projects. They had heard me participate in class, and they still “felt bad?”…

It took me a few months before I realized something: No matter what I did, those kids would always think that of me…Discrimination and prejudices, I think, will be a part of human life as long as people have opinions, AKA forever. But all we can do is not let it rule our lives…I guess what I celebrate this Martin Luther King’s Day is the knowledge that I’ll never let others’ shortcomings, others’ assumptions, affect anything I do again.

Excerpted from an essay written by Juna Gjata, a high school student and volunteer contributor to Inside NBP.  Read her full essay

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