Land of the Free?


By Nico

Just now, as we were driving through Hartford to Detroit for my great-grandmother’s funeral, we saw an American flag flying at half-mast. When my mom saw this, she gasped, and grabbed her phone.

“Oh, God! I hope there wasn’t another one!”

She was hoping that there wasn’t another shooting of a black person. There wasn’t, so she told me they were probably doing it for the policemen in Dallas who were killed by the lone black sniper.

We’ve been studying racism in history in my school, LAMB, for the last two years. Black history, Native American history. I thought about it for a while.

“Why should it be at half mast for only them? More than 100 black people have been shot by white police officers this year, and people are all worked up over five officers shot by a black person!”

From The New York Times: “A new study shows that people of color are treated differently by police officers, and more likely to be touched, handcuffed, pushed to the ground, or pepper sprayed.”

From The Daily Show: “‘You can’t deny the racism,’ Trevor Noah says.” This happened in an episode where he was talking about being pro–black and pro–cop. He was talking about how you could be both, and not have to be against each other. Then he moved on and talked about a zoo. A child fell into a gorilla pit, and the gorilla started attacking him. They shot and killed the gorilla, and the child was fine. It was one attack, and everyone got upset about it. There were protests and rallies until the zoo worked to make it safer for children.

There are two points here; one is that the zoo worked together to make it safer for people. Why can’t we work together to make our environment safer for everyone? The second point is that people got all mad about a gorilla being shot: an animal from a zoo. And now, when it seems like there is another shooting of a black person every day, nobody is paying attention.

I’ve learned about this in school. Talked about it with my parents. I’ve seen it on the news. I know a lot of black people. Those are the people who make me smile. Who make me laugh. Who make me feel good. One day, if this problem doesn’t change, and I’m a grown up, I could be peacefully looking through the newspaper. I could flip to a page, and see one of my friends there, on the page, with the header saying that they were dead. I don’t want that to happen.

In books, there is a ton of racism. In the book Holes, the cover is a black person heading out to dig. In the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the Oompa-loompas are colored little beings, and seen as aliens. In the book Tintin in the Congo, Tintin travels to Southern Africa. When he heals an African woman’s husband, she says, “White mister is big juju!”

In movies, there is a lot of racism, too. In the movie Dumbo, there is a crow with a Jamaican accent named Jim Crow. The Little Mermaid has Sebastian the Crab with a Jamaican accent. He wants her to stay under the sea with him because you don’t have to get a job there. The movie Pocahontas portrays the Native Americans as making them seem uncivilized and crazy, while the whites were just trying to make peace.

Maybe if we could change the perception of people of color in books and movies, people will stop thinking of them as gangsters or criminals or someone who will try to hurt you.

I think America has a serious problem. We all need to join hands, black or white, Latino or Asian. We all have a home here. We all have hope here. We should all have love here.

“To the land of the free, and the home of the brave.”


  1. Nico, gracias por tus palabras, por tus pensamientos tan hermosos. No dejas de sorprenderme. Felicito tu forma de pensar, espero que los niños de hoy logren cambiar el mundo positivamente y se que tu vas a ser uno de ellos. Te deseo lo mejor. No dejes de escribir 😉


    • We love to read your writing. Both Padraig and Liam read it and the first thing Padraig says is that he misses you. We look forward to your next excerpt. I think you are inspiring the boys to write.


  2. Excellent post, Nico! These are serious issues you are grappling with. Proud of you! I will read through it with Lila, because I want her to learn from your reflections as well.


  3. I’m a little late to the party but this is so great and well written! I especially love the part on books and movies (and the references you chose) which I think frame and influence so many of our mental models as we grow up. Keep it up! 🙂


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