E Kooij Wisconsin

Equality For All

"We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back." -Malala Yousafzai

Dear Future President,

Equality for all is the one thing closest to my heart this election, and I hope that you--as the President of a country that boasts diversity, freedom, justice--take this to heart. I value equality due to my upbringing; I have two Dutch parents, and we speak both Dutch and English everywhere we go. My family tries to stay open-minded about everything, even in a Republican and Catholic neighborhood. My mother is an elementary school teacher who has a strong accent, and my dad is brilliant with computers but is also quite absent-minded. I have two younger sisters who are both wonderful and intelligent. I myself am advanced in my studies, being the first ever high school freshman to complete an Advanced Placement course (for college credits) in my hometown’s high school last year.

While this is all very wonderful, I’ve also had the misfortune of seeing my mother come home and cry because some parents don’t want their kids in her class due to her accent. I’ve heard my sisters' stories of comments and actions from some not-so-nice kids because they stood up for something or someone. I’ve sat in bed at night listening to my mom rant about how the employees treat my dad at work. My mom had to literally drag me to school because I didn’t want to go, I didn’t want to face my classmates again. The entire room sighed every time I had to explain what I meant when I said tanden poetsen (brushing my teeth), mijn jas (my jacket), or staartje (ponytail) because even at age ten I had no idea what to call the bands that held my hair up. I was the target of some… interesting comments simply because I called my doll Pop. (Pop is Dutch for dolly, and is pronounced with a long o sound, much like oa or oh with a Canadian accent.) A friend I left behind when I transferred schools is lesbian, and I don’t even want to begin to describe how people treated her. Down the road is a group of apartments mostly rented out to the people who work in the many hotels and other businesses in the Wisconsin Dells, and unfortunately the nickname it has gained--Little Mexico City--is used much too often in derogatory circumstances.

I know there is no easy way to fix the situation we have, but perhaps it’s time for the government to step in and help some of us out. Not only could we provide help to the people who are struggling (for example, 41% trans teens have attempted suicide), but we could strive to eliminate what’s behind the cause of such statistics. The National Institute of Health and NCBI teamed up and did a study of suicide in trans individuals and the answer almost brought me to tears. It’s not being trans itself, but how they were treated that was causing the horrifying loss of lives. What was even more disturbing was that these were people of all places, races, and ages, even today’s so-called working class. “Right now, in 29 states, lesbian, gay, transgender, and bisexual (LGBT) Americans lack sufficient protections against employment discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity” (US Department of Justice). No wonder: if we can’t get past the silly bullying that was condemned even in elementary school, how will we fix it in the workplace?

Not only that, but things like this apply to everyone. No matter your stance on race, we are all people, good and bad alike, and should be treated no differently because of outside appearances. No one person is the same as the next, but that’s what makes America, and the world, so beautiful. However, if our people can’t feel safe in the streets, at home, even the grocery store, how can we say that we’re the land of the free and the home of the brave?

“As a recent Op-Ed points out, ‘People of color have grown to 38 percent of the population today from 12 percent in 1966...’ A June survey by the Pew Research Center found that only 46 percent of whites surveyed thought that race relations were generally good, a sharp drop from the 66 percent who held that opinion in June 2009, shortly after Mr. Obama took office. For blacks, the corresponding decline — to 34 percent last month from 59 percent in 2009 — was even steeper. One article noted, ‘police officers and sociologists alike say that racial tension is approaching a point last seen during the street riots that swept urban American in the late 1960s’” (NY Times).

It’s time to get real, and it’s time to start solving--or at least addressing and frowning upon--such unreasonable and short-sighted behavior. We are all loved, we are all hurt, saddened, joyful, angry, and we are all people, we are all human.

Seeking to help those in need is a responsibility that falls on your shoulders, and right now, there’s a longing to belong, to be treated like a friend, family, a classmate, a co-worker, a person, not a label. What really brings the fight for true equality closest to my heart is that I’ve fought along with everyone else, I’ve seen others struggle, and I wish that everyone would let go of what was right in the past, because those things do not define who we are now. We need to be brave and let go of the past, fight for the present we deserve, and look to a better future that should always be ours.

With hope, respect, and faith, I wish you the best in the presidency.

E. Kooij

Madison Country Day School

English 10

This is a group for English 10 students to post their letters to the next president.

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