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Knowledge or Change

by Harriet Acheampong

When I was younger, I was surprised to find in CVS that all of the band-aids were made for people whose skin was much lighter than mine. Band-aids. Something as simple as band-aids stirred my curiosity. I made it my personal goal to try to find a band-aid that matched my skin color. I never found one.

Many years later, I understand much more about racism and the way that it impacts our society. I understand that minorities are always targeted. Was this just another way? Band-aids aren’t made for people who look like me, people who are in the streets dying.

It sucks to be so young and to be exposed to microaggressions. It hurts me now that there might be a little girl out there thinking the same thing that I thought. Ignorance is truly bliss–I was never angry until I realized that a specific group of people had power.

Am I overthinking things? I mean, really, a band-aid? I don’t think so– that band-aid sums up American culture and society so well. Band-aids are so simple that they might just slip your mind. But that’s exactly what they want. They want you to be so unaware that you never really notice the racism, they want you to just think that you are failing or struggling or not good enough and that it’s all your fault and not the fault of society.

There, in the aisles of CVS, I learned that prejudice like this still exists. I finally understand now what teachers say: We are the change. We can’t keep relying on others to change things. We have to rely on each other to become aware of things like this.

We need to be taught how to examine society and be skeptical, so that we can change things.We are so focused on numbers and grades that we aren’t taught how to really think and speak for ourselves. We are taught to restate the question when writing an essay and how to formulate a topic sentence. But we aren’t taught what the purpose of a persuasive essay is in the long run; we aren’t taught what we can do with the information teachers give us. The only way to help is to become a teacher: to start with America’s young. This country’s future is getting little to no support, especially in minority neighborhoods. And when we grow up, they wonder why we become strippers and move bricks and shit. They say it’s because of the color of our skin.

I wonder why anger and conflict even exist. We all are human, we all want to look good and feel good and be with other people so why do we always resort to violence? Why do pain and suffering exist in the world? Why did one man’s hatred have to manifest into an idea that we as humans practice and pass down generation to generation. How can you let people in your own backyard labor in the heat and be attacked by the police who are supposed to protect them? How can you take away their right to even learn about where they come from and who they are? All because they are black. I shouldn’t have to be thinking these thoughts, you know? I am way too young to be worrying about this. But I’m determined to fight so that my daughter can walk into the drugstore and see band-aids that match her skin tone.

Commentary by Bernice Arricale

Band-aids. Harriet saw that she was missing from society’s calculation of what needs to be provided to its citizens. She was in the tent but somehow invisible and concludes that racism and ignorance are to blame. Who decides what color bandages should be? What considerations go into making that decision? What will it take to get manufacturers to create products with black people in mind?

Harriet states that the only way to change things is to become a teacher. Do you agree? How else can young black people “become the change?”