Immigration Legal Challenges; Stop the Hate & NFL Draft
The Supreme Court is now considering President Trump's travel ban and another federal judge has ruled against the administration's strike-down of DACA. On The Sound of Ideas, we'll talk immigration law with Cleveland State University Law Professor Milena Sterio. Later, we'll hear from high schoolers fighting prejudice in the Stop the Hate essay contest. And The Plain Dealer's Bill Livingston on the Browns draft.
Below are the Stop the Hate Essays written by the students featured on The Sound of Ideas
JOHN KUNZO III
12th Grade, Gilmour Academy
“You aren’t Black. You’re White.” Speechless, I let out a fake laugh because I was shocked at the racial slur. After all, these are my friends!
Growing up attending prestigious private schools, I have grown accustomed to brushing off racial insensitivities. The occasional fried chicken and Kool-Aid joke is commonplace to me; it goes in one ear and out the other. I have even grown thick skin to naively racist questions such as, “What happens to your hair when you’re in the shower?” And, “Can you only say N-I-G because you’re half?” However, when called white because I do not fit my friends’ image of an African-American male, I was taken aback.
The image my peers think of promotes gun violence, profanity, and drug use, all blending to pervert an uneducated person’s idea of blackness. So, because I do not participate in these endeavors, I am thought of as white.
Genetically, I am biracial, and I am proud of it. I am too dark to be Caucasian, and African-Americans often ostracize me once they realize my father is White. However, my mixed background was not the basis of the initial insult. Rather, it is my passion for excellence and success academically, culturally, and socially as an African-American.
As a senior in high school, I had hoped that this would no longer be a problem for me. Students are mature enough to know that African-Americans are not “cookie cut” into rappers and instead aim for higher standards. Most want to go to college, be well-spoken, and have the desire to succeed. But, somewhere between these polar opposites, the idea of a Black man has evolved into no more than a thug. To the people that believe that, I wish to tell them: Being Black is a race, not a lifestyle. Same as being White, Asian, or Hispanic.
At my school, I aided a teacher in forming a group for students of African- American backgrounds to gather and discuss problems. When Non-Black students heard about it they laughed, then undermined the club by joking about creating a “White Student Alliance” in retaliation. What my apathetic classmates fail to realize is that the club is not for any one race; it is a support group for any student dealing with racial insensitivity. It is for the experiences we share, like mine, that people throw at us every day, with or without intention.
Although the Black Student Alliance has been established, I would like to go further in debunking racial insensitivity among classmates and peers in other schools. Through something as simple as a talk by a diversity coach such as the well-known Eva Vega-Olds (whom I heard speak at a Leadership Summit), positive steps could be made, advancing empathy in school communities. The ultimate goal is to not have to brush off hateful comments but instead share a refreshing glass of Kool-Aid with peers, enjoying each other for who we are, not what we look like.
John Kunzo III is a senior at Gilmour Academy, where he is a member of student council, National Honor Society, Black Student Alliance, Speech and Debate Team, and President of the ESPN Club. He was selected a Bank of America Student Leader, and intends to study political science.
12th Grade, Padua Franciscan High School
In my life I have experienced profound obstacles that have taken immense strength and courage to overcome. I have experienced abuse and injustice at the hands of someone who was supposed to protect me from them. From the time I was three until I was twelve, I was sexually and mentally abused by my father. I was told that no one would believe me if I tried to tell them, or that people would think I was stained, like it was my fault. I was silenced, and I was robbed of a childhood that I might have had, and it took me nine years to tell anyone about the abuse for fear of what might follow.
When I finally told my mom what was happening to me, my entire world changed. I went through a period of my life where I felt extremely lonely. I moved to a new school with new kids and teachers, and I didn’t know anyone. I missed my olds friends, my old routine, and even my dad. Not my abuser, but my dad. It took me a long time to find the strength within myself to speak out about the injustice happening to me, and to forgive my dad for what he did. I went to many different therapists and talked one on one with them, but I still felt alone. It wasn’t until I started going to a summer therapy group with other girls my age that I started to open up. I felt like I had finally found a place where people understood me and I could speak openly.
I spent years hiding behind the epidemic of silence. Too afraid to open up and talk about what happened to me; too afraid that I would be judged, or that no one would understand. Little did I know, there are millions of people all over the world who have felt the exact same way I did. Every year in the U.S alone, 321,500 people will be victims of sexual assault. The number of those cases that will be reported, however, is less than half. Young girls, just like me, are too afraid to speak out against their abusers. Some of them have no one to trust and confide in, no one to be a shoulder to cry on, no one to help them break their silence.
In my seventeen years, I have been given a platform and an opportunity to share my story and speak out about destroying the plague of silence. I have been able to work in therapy groups to talk about the injustices that were happening to me, and to hear ones that others have faced. I have learned that people from all walks of life have stories just like mine. Stories of domestic abuse, racism, bullying, prejudice, sexual assault, and many others that go unheard of every single day. In finding my voice and speaking out, I have been able to help others find their voice, and shatter the silence.
Peyton Lunder is a senior at Padua Franciscan High School. She is passionate about arts and writing in particular, with a goal of using her voice in a career in marketing and journalism, where she will continue to have her voice “heard in the world.”
11th Grade, Fuchs Mizrachi
The Passover Seder is a time for us, as Jews, to reflect on the religious and historical significance of our liberation from Egypt. As we read through the Haggadah we question, “why is this night different from all other nights?” I ask myself that question as I lie curled in a ball, alone, shaking, hiding, in the dark, during our family Seder. Minutes earlier, I was surrounded at a table by my grandparents, my dad, my stepmother, and my siblings. I was told by my stepmother not to sit next to my brother because “He is a bad influence,” and “a lost cause.” I know she is referring to his sexual orientation. My brother is gay. When these painful words were spoken publicly, all eyes turned to my brother. His head was down, tears falling down his cheeks. There was silence at the table and the silence was unbearable. I was not going to allow my brother to be victimized and shamed. I put my arm around him as a show of solidarity. Everyone was waiting for someone to say something in defense of my brother, to tell him and everyone sitting at the table that we would love him unconditionally, regardless of his sexual orientation. Suddenly, a family member, with cold, hate-filled eyes and breath reeking of alcohol, stood up. He yelled at me to move away from my brother. I felt a painful, burning sensation across my cheek and I fell backward. I covered my face from the repeated strikes.
Why was this night different from all other nights?
Why was I struck? Why didn’t anyone else stand up for my brother? Why was there silence? Why was there hatred? I was embarrassed. I was heartbroken. I was devastated.
I have always tried to respect my elders. How could I continue to honor this family member when he caused physical harm to me and emotional harm to everyone else sitting around the table. The bruises may fade but the emotional scars will never heal completely.
My eyes were opened for the first time. My conscience was awakened. I decided to dedicate my life to educate others about discrimination. I decided to pursue a career in medicine to help people cope with their emotional and behavioral disorders. This past summer I conducted research at the Cleveland Clinic Summer Internship Program, and I will be undertaking more research this coming summer at Case Western Reserve University. I never want another child to endure the pain that my brother and I experienced at that dreadful Seder.
My Passover Seders will now have additional significance. They will convey the message of respect, acceptance, tolerance, compassion, civility, sensitivity, and forgiveness. A love without name calling and without violence. A love for a gay son, brother, or grandson. Freedom to celebrate and embrace our differences.
Dahlia Moskowitz is a junior at Fuchs Mizrachi. She volunteers with Friendship Circle, captains the varsity soccer team, plays softball, and loves travel, with Israel a dream destination. She plans to attend medical school.
-Milena Sterio, Professor of Law & Associate Dean for Academic Enrichment, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law
-Peyton Lunder, 12th Grade, Padua Franciscan High School
-John Kunzo III, 12th Grade, Gilmour Academy
-Dahlia Moskowitz, 11th Grade, Fuchs Mizrachi and First Runner Up
-Bill Livingston, Sports Columnist, The Plain Dealer