By Colette Jaycox, First Place Winner (Grades 9th to 12th)
Asking whether or not the county is "ready" gives undue credence to racist perspectives. By posing the question as a two-sided quandary, we tactically accept the answer "no"- and doing so has consequences. If we decide that the country is not ready for a minority president, we condone discrimination against political candidates based on their ethnicity. After all, if the country is not ready for a minority president, why bother supporting a minority candidate, regardless of his or her skill sets? This legitimizes bigotry in the political sphere. Because we deem a minority candidate unelectable, it becomes socially acceptable to discriminate against such candidates. This, then, makes it even more difficult for a minority candidate to be elected president. We spiral downward and it becomes even more difficult for us to overcome our racist past.
Instead of focusing on the ethnicity of presidential candidates, we should examine their opinions on the issues at hand. Media coverage of the elections directed in such a way would send a message to the population that deciding who to vote for based on skin color is socially unacceptable- and societal pressure can be a powerful thing. Only by moving beyond our insecurity as to the readiness of our country to elect a minority president can we actually have a chance at getting a minority candidate in that position. The color of one's skin does not hamper one's political abilities; the country of one's ancestors does not limit one's capacity as a presidential hopeful. Once we stop making race an issue, we will have only the abilities of the candidates to look to- and this is in no way constrained by color.
Skeptics remain as to America's ability to reason in such a manner. However, we have empirical evidence to the contrary. The frontrunner in the Democratic primaries, leading in both states and delegates, is the minority candidate Barack Obama. The unprecedented success of his campaign, even against well-connected Clinton machine, flies in the faces of the political pundits who dismissed him at the beginning of the race. The thousands upon thousands of Americans who flocked to the caucuses to support Obama must think the country is ready for a man like him. The fact that he is African-American does not seem to discourage Americans in any way from voting for him. And as a serious contender for the Democratic nomination, that party must surely believe the country would vote for him. America's readiness is determined by the people, and as of yet, American citizens are looking favorably on Obama, a minority candidate.
They think that America is ready, so it is. America is its people, and its people have spoken. We are indeed created equal.
Judge's comments: By questioning the very premise of the topic, Colette elevates the discussion to a higher plane. Even though the essay is short, it argues its point well. A discussion of the realities of race in America would have improved it further.
Colette Jaycox is a 10th grade student at Mission San Jose High School in Fremont, California. Essay published as submitted.
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