Dear Mr. Booker,
Your life story has educated, moved and inspired me. After researching your respected efforts to expose racism in this country, I have reached an important crossroad in my life: I am going to stand up for what I believe in despite the opinions of others.
As long as I can remember, I have known of the existence of racial discrimination in this country. I learned about Martin Luther King Jr. in grade school, and tried to imagine, with little success, how difficult his struggle. Not until I learned of your story, though, has this issue really hit home for me. I believe this is because much of your time working was spent right here in my hometown, so I can better relate.
I have grown up with two racist parents. They never directly told me to dislike people based on their race, it was done more so in passing. They would make comments such as, “Oh, was he black?” and “Yah, that’s how ‘they’ are.” Deep inside, I have always known that way of thinking about people was wrong. It wasn’t until my high school years that I became brave enough to stand up to them. I would tell my dad not to say things like that around me. He would get mad at me. When I told my mother that she is ignorant to judge someone based on race, she would ignore me and have no reply.
After graduating high school, I attended a technical school where I became involved with some friends whose beliefs are different than mine. It struck me as odd how they went about their lives going to church and calling themselves Catholics, yet they would exchange racist jokes regularly. I questioned how someone who is supposed to stand for love and forgiveness is capable of such hate. When I brought up my concerns, they said, “I’m not racist. I have black friends,” and “We’re just kidding. Relax.” I noticed they subtly began to alienate me. Although I knew there was some racism in each of them, I mistakenly gave in to peer pressure and learned to look the other way when I heard their cruel words.
Now, as I begin a new path of obtaining a college degree, I can already see major changes within myself. I am more set in my own beliefs because I’ve learned how to gather knowledge, opinions and experiences from other people and form my own opinions. My racist “friends” are beginning to fade from my life, my parents are learning to keep their ignorant opinions to themselves and I’m starting to surround myself with open-minded, educated freethinkers.
My choice to grow as a person by being true to myself and standing up for what I believe in, regardless of the circumstance, has been confirmed through my education of your hard work and dedication to end discrimination. Learning about your life story has changed my life.
Thank you for that.
With eternal gratitude,