Youth Voices Interrupting Racism: IRFC Youth Racial Justice Essay Contest
Posted on June 13th, 2023
Power Holds: Fighting Racism
By: Aracely Avila Hermosillo
*Youth in our community wrote these essays as a part of our IRFC Youth Racial Justice Contest which encouraged young people to answer this question: “How has having access to the Interrupting Racism for Children (IRFC) program at Child Advocates impacted your ability to interrupt racism today?” Here is Aracely’s 1st Place Essay:
Every person has the power to bring change by using their voice.
In history, we see Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks who up to this day hold an impact on our history. Even though their voices and steps were taken many years ago, they remain a testament to the impact protesting injustice has and will continue to have.
At home, accessing the Interrupting Racism for Children Program (IRFC) impacted my ability to interrupt racism today by highlighting the role education, awareness, and listening to other people’s stories can have in dismantling these injustices.
Firstly, the IRFC workshop played a big part in discussing racism in children, which is essential for older people to educate adults who have or work with youths. It is essential that, as adults, we educate kids at a young age to see all humans equally and not differently due to skin color. By telling adults to educate their children, we can see a significant impact on how students are when they attend school.
During the workshop, we watched a video where kids were being interviewed. The kids were shown a picture where the black kid was on the swing while the white kid stood on the other side. The kids were asked, “What do you think happened to the white kid?” Answers appeared like, “The black kid pushed him off.” However, when the picture was reversed, the answers from the kids seemed to change.
Kids start categorizing and grouping different people from such a young age. Research has found that “three-month-old babies prefer faces from particular racial groups, 9-month-olds use race to categorize faces, and 3-year-old children in the U.S. associate some racial groups with negative traits. (“Children notice race several years before adults want to talk about it.”)
Therefore, responses and attitudes to our differences can be learned from early exposure to diversity at a young age. The people children interact with, such as their family, friends, and schoolmates, can significantly influence worldviews and attitudes toward racism. However, children need first to understand what racism is before any change can happen.
We need to protect children as they are scared for the future. Some even believe they cannot leave the house without fear of being hurt. What do you think went through the heads of black children when they heard the story about George Floyd? George Floyd was murdered as a police officer kneeled on his neck for around seven minutes after he used a counterfeit $20 bill.
A CNN video showed a mother recording her daughter and son emotionally crying after attending a Floyd protest; the daughter cried and said, “I don’t want anything to happen to me.” The boy said, “It doesn’t matter about the race; we are all people.” We are all people and should be treated equally regardless of skin color.
Another story from police brutality is Breonna Taylor’s death in her apartment due to a botched raid. Also, Ahmaud Arbery was out jogging and killed because the killer said he looked like “a man suspected.”
During 2020, hate in Asia dramatically increased due to the blame ofCovid-19. Yet, these are only a few stories out of a thousand.
The workshop helped me become more involved and understand the things around me. I understood the definition of racism and the pillars that fall into the category. Some of the pillars of racism are being biased against women, LGBT, and the language barrier.
Also, we had the opportunity to talk and give our input. For example, we all gathered a biased phrase that we had heard from people. With all of our responses, we concluded that none of the statements were true.
We also got to talk about what we believed made us our race. Once again, all of the words were false. So, no matter your hair type or how you dress and talk, you cannot determine your race.
Having the opportunity to attend the workshops has helped me develop knowledge and awareness. With all of this, the next step is to take action.
One voice may not seem significant, but in reality, we see history start with one person. Therefore, all voices and actions are important.
The following small step is voting in the upcoming 2024 elections. My voice matters. I have advocated before and will continue to. If I see something, I say something. I also stay aware of the situations and events that occur around me.
I have hope for the future. It all starts with our voices.
“Children notice race several years before adults want to talk about it.” American Psychological Association, 27 August 2020 Study: Children Notice Race – Accessed 6 March 2023. Covid-19 Fueling Anti-Asian Racism and Xenophobia Worldwide. Human Rights Watch, 12 May 2020 – Accessed 6 March 2023.
Fausset, Richard. Ahmaud Arbery Shooting: What We Know About the Trial and More. The New York Times, 8 August 2022. Accessed 6 March 2023.
*The essay portion of the IRFC Youth Racial Justice Contest was named for Dr. Arlene Coleman, a longtime educator, racial justice warrior, and facilitator for our Interrupting Racism For Children program. The youth participants are either members of our Youth Against Racial Injustice (YARI) program or they attended one of our IRFC youth workshops. Learn more about YARI if you are a young person who would like to join us in building a better future for every child where their race does not predict their life outcomes.*