MLK essay contest winner: Building the Beloved Community

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Editor’s note: These essays were named as winners of the annual Fairfield University Martin Luther King Jr. essay contest for Bridgeport middle school students. The winners will be honored on Monday, Feb. 22, at the school’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, to be held virtually. For more information, go to https://www.fairfield.edu/mlk/

Why can’t society be the beloved community that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wanted? Why can’t it be a place where I don’t have to have a harder life than others based on my skin color and ethnicity? Where I shouldn’t have to see and hear things and the systems that are affected by racism don’t have to have racism in them?

My life being Black and Hispanic is very hard. Being Black in America has been very hard on me since the day I was born. When I go out to places like the store and things like that, I get stared at when I’m the only Black person there. I’m also Puerto Rican. Sometimes I will wear my shirt with the flag on it out in public and I see people just look at me and say things just because I’m wearing a shirt with the flag on it, and that just hurts me. Because of who I am, people assume that I act a certain way or do a certain thing, which hurts. For example, sometimes people think because I’m Black I don’t have a father, or because I’m Puerto Rican I don’t speak English. My father is very much a part of my life and I don’t even speak Spanish. The only language I know is English.

Throughout my life, my family and I have had to have many different conversations. One of the first conversations I remember having when I was little was that I was “different.” What my parents meant by different was Black. I didn’t really understand at the time what they meant by that. Basically what they told me was the some people would treat me differently because I was darker than them. Another conversation I have had a few times with my family since I was about 9 was what to do when the police ever stopped me because they didn’t want me to be the next name on the news.

Through time I have noticed how there are a lot of systems that racism takes a big part in. For example, the employment system has many different disadvantages. People have done social experiments where they make a job application with a “Black” name and a “white” name. The one with the “white” name got more job offers than the “Black” application. Another system that racism takes a part in is society. Society uses your race to try to keep people in a certain place. Now a lot of people go beyond what society wants them to and do things people couldn’t even imagine.

Racism has deeply affected my life, made me see and hear certain things, and watch systems that are affecting people using it each and every day. Why can’t society be a beloved community that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wanted? Maybe us as humans can do better to make society the beloved community he wanted with no racism.

Taylor Bianca Gerald is a seventh-grader at St. Augustine Academy who won first place in this year’s essay contest.