Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
Of all the experiences I’ve had growing up, I feel like most of current decisions and perspective towards things stemmed from my family, and how they influenced me in their own individual way. They all had similar attitudes yet different ways of thinking, and with me being an observative person at a young age, I started to take in how they handled financial and social situations and therefore used the same solutions in my personal life. Politics wasn’t really a topic around the house, maybe because since they didn’t understand it fully, they didn’t see a point in discussing it. I was raised to keep to myself and to stay quiet so a lot of my opinions were barely heard of at home. My parents possessed the idea of their children following their own thoughts but at the same, following what they say. There were sometimes talk of how the president shouldn’t do this or how the president shouldn’t approve of that, and at those moments I used to wonder did any of my family understand how any of it worked because of the amount of complaining I would also hear. My family wasn’t very religious but they discussed many situations where they would bring up God and why things would happen. To me, even though I was young, I still didn’t follow the path that my parents told me I should take. I was a quiet rebel.
While not being exactly Christian, I always wondered why God would let so many horrible things happen to others. I always felt like, if God was so powerful, why would He allow the economy to do so terribly. And if God couldn’t control the economy, why couldn’t He send the government officials ideas on how to fix things. I could never understand how and why things were so bad for myself and other people, at times I felt like I was being punished by society in a way because I was in a lower class than others. I used to think that my mom wasn’t working hard enough, because of the things I saw on TV or the people around me weren’t doing as bad as us. But as I got older I got to see that it wasn’t easy to live a comfortable lifestyle while being black, a single mother, and raising four children. And if we did need government assistance, there were so many hoops to jump through to get it. Making it hard for families to get help from the government made no sense to me, didn’t they see how hard it was to try and live that type of life, then when it comes down to getting the available help, it’s a race or a competition. This made me wonder the government made so many barriers for families to get help.
I grew in the urban city of Memphis, TN where there was plenty of crime, poverty, and hate in all corners of the city. I was poor but I wasn’t dirt poor, we were placed in between middle and low class. We were fine, yet struggling every day in terms of bills, food, and safety. My older brother and I grew up together and had to figure out what we could find to eat while our mom was working overtime shifts. We ate anything we thought was good enough to eat such as sugar sandwiches, syrup sandwiches, fried meatballs dipped in barbecue sauce, ramen noodles, cans of peas, Vienna sausages, and beanie weenie just to name a few. We were on government assistance but soon became ineligible and no longer received it due to the amount of income my mother received. At times, we did eat full meals but only because of the fact that some of my family members turned to illegal activities to feed the family. This became a problem in the family because it happened pretty frequently but it didn’t stop, it was like we didn’t have a choice. Finding a job was hard because of the educational requirements and skills needed, in which some of my family didn’t have. I have a lot of family in Memphis, but we didn’t have a genuine relationship enough to ask for help, so we struggled on our own. Moving to Indianapolis in ’08 was a big change for me but I wasn’t sure how to feel about. When I first moved here my aunt asked my brother and I what we thought about Indy so far, and we said, “It’s a lot of white people and pollen.” Since we moved here, things have gotten a little better as far as money and making friends and growing up. The violence wasn’t as frequent as Memphis, so that’s always a good thing. But one thing that I noticed while being here was how easy it is to move up to another social class. There were more opportunities and job offerings in Indy than in Memphis, like it was easier to live in certain places of the country. I thought every should have the same type of opportunities and resources as any other place. Many times when people move out of state it’s because of a better job offer. I had seen so many shows and movies with political leaders that expressed how good it was to live in America, how easy it was to live the American dream, and how ‘anybody’ could be anything they wanted but they failed to include the probability of achieving your dream while living in low income housing and had more than one child. Chances seemed a little slim then.
Race was an issue for me when I was growing up. Personally, I have had a few racial situations so far in my life, unfortunately. There were aa couple instances where race played a factor in my life with the first one concerning my mother’s job position. She was at a very good paying job and was one of the best workers at her job, and the only African American, while the rest of her coworkers were Caucasian. Her supervisors were very good friends with each other, and did anything they wanted when it came to the firing and hiring. My mom had been at her job for many years and one day they decided to fire her without any explanation. Thankfully she had good friends that still worked there, and told her the real reason why she was fired. Her friend stated. “They only wanted you gone because they wanted to keep the staff an all-white staff. Then after you left, they hired another white person who just so happen was a friend of theirs.” Another instance was when my mother used to work for The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. She was promoted to be a supervisor after working there for about 5 years and she was then demoted from her position. Their reasoning was that she wasn’t qualified enough for the position but the rest of the staff knew that their supervisors never liked African Americans in higher positions of the company. I felt like this affected me because it showed me how supervisors have superfluous control over why someone was hired or fired. This behavior has also showed how easy it is to fire someone based on race, as in there isn’t any procedures or heavy paperwork to go through. Moving on to my own racial problems, I’ve had crude experiences that have scarred me but in a way shaped me to be who I am. When I was about 10 years old, I was playing outside with friends and were running around our apartment complex, and we noticed police cars coming in through the entrance. They all parked near this car that had been broken into, it was glass everywhere. We didn’t think anything about it so we continued to play. About 5 minutes later, a Caucasian male officer approached us and asked, “How long yall been playing outside?” We told him it had been about an hour and he asked how long we’d been staying in the complex, and we’d all said for about a year. The officer looked at me for a few seconds and told me to meet him by the squad so he could talk to me, I agreed because I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong. “Something is telling me that you were the one that broke into that old lady’s car over there.” I looked at him with a confused look on my face and then looked over at the car. The older woman was there, talking to another officer while pointing at me and the officer. “I don’t know what you talkin’ ‘bout, I been playing outside all day.” I told him. He took a deep breath, rolled his eyes and said, “Look here little nigga girl, I know your ass did it cause that what every black kid be doin around here. Always stealing and breaking stuff. Look the lady already told me that she saw some lil kid running away after she heard her window being smashed” I could tell my facial expression changed because of the look on his face. He grabbed me by my shirt and threw me against the car, and I started screaming in pain because my knee hit the side of the car. “Stay there and don’t move!” he said. So I kept standing there and I looked over at my friends and they all looked worried, just as much as I did. The officer walked towards the older lady and talked to her for a few minutes. After about 10 minutes, an older African American woman walked out of her apartment and started walking towards the officers and I heard her say something to the officer. They started talking in a huddle, and then one of the officers pointed to me, then came back over to me and brought me over to the group. The older black woman said, “Yeah she wasn’t the kid I saw. I seen some lil white boy with dark brown hair runnin’.” The officer looked at me and said, “Oh, you can go then.” I ran back to my group of friends who were still watching a few yards away and they asked me what happened but I didn’t say anything. I was already confused and upset and did not want to go through the situation again, so I just kept the story to myself. After this experience, this made me wonder what kind of training is required to become an officer and how did they let so many racists people become officers. I felt like the city didn’t genuinely choose who could and could not be a cop because the qualifications did not really matter to them, it was just a situation where they needed people for this job, and they chose anybody.
A factor that has influenced me the most is the mass media. Growing up I felt like anything that had to do with the media such as social media, television, radio, music videos, movies, and etc. Music videos, to me, gave the younger generation a sense of false hope and confusion. Seeing so many things that I wanted and other people are flaunting it like it easy to get was a little unrealistic. This made me wonder why could other people be so happy and could have plenty of needs and wants so easily while we were struggling for years. I felt like the government was being unfair to the lower social classes. I have seen so many movies that emphasize the stereotypical African American man living in the slums of a city with no job and on welfare, and on the other hand there’s the wealthy Caucasian man with a degree and a CEO job while living in small mansion in the suburbs. It didn’t seem fair to me because the movie producers constantly viewed African Americans as poor and lazy, and there were too many movies and shows that displayed just that. I feel like it’s played out when it comes to portraying certain races so negatively. It’s hard enough trying to get past racism as a culture, but when producers constantly put out this misinterpretation of the African American community, its taking us backwards. We want to be seen as regular person who’s trying their best in life to make the best of our own lives.
My peers had some influence by how their thought processes were so different from mine. When we would have in class discussions, my peers would be confused about why was is it so hard for some people to control their bills and live like them, which was comfortably. It was like they never heard of someone having a hard time at life. That made me feel like too many people in society aren’t aware about those who need government assistance or who have problems with their finances.
As of now, and how my life has been for the past few years I feel like my political views have evolved enough for me to understand a majority of the governmental processes and comprehend how the economy works. When it comes to understanding the economy, I know that there are some things that the president can and cannot do, no matter what he or she says during the campaigning phase. I get that the whole point of politics is to serve the people in an efficient way without violence. I have learned that the two Houses’ power can be either detrimental or beneficial to the American people. A person has to understand the system and how it works before criticizing anything or anyone in the political field. It’s not about blaming the government for not having enough jobs available, or being upset because you were denied welfare, it’s about using the knowledge you have and getting through things. With that knowledge, I understand that the congress and both Houses have much more control and have to approve of many of the things that go on with the American security or spending. I can’t blame the government completely for how thousands of citizens are near the poverty level or can’t find a job, sometimes it can be a personal issue. It would be smart for those who complain about how their local or national officials have issues that they need to amend to exercise their right as a citizen, and speak up. The first amendment is the most important when it comes to not being satisfied with how the country is ran. I chose Political Science-Legal Studies as a major because I wanted to give a reflection of how things could be for other people. I want to teach people, regardless of race or religion, that it takes a lot of hard work to get to a successful point in your life, and blaming it on others won’t solve it. I’ve seen many situations unfold for the better or the worst while learning even more. I feel like President-elect Donald Trump was an eye opener for a majority of the citizens which was to me a shame. Nobody really cared about the president unless it had to do with a black guy, a lady, or a narcissist white guy. Now the talk at dinner tables is how things might be in the next year and how we as a nation should stand against him while I feel won’t even work. It shouldn’t take a tragedy for the American people to open their eyes and minds to see what goes on in the white house. Society is so focused on blaming others for the issues that they could help change, but too many Americans are too lazy to learn or stupid to understand. And it’s sad its takes a tragedy for Americans to actually want to learn about American history and politics.