Hi everyone, I'm trying to write an essay for the commonapp question, "Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you." or "Topic of your choice."
This is a first draft, and I'm writing for undergraduate first year early decision to Cornell
. HELP! Please critique as honestly as possible, and let me know if its too cliched or too controversial or whatever.
Thanks guys!The Power of Tolerance
"Go back to where you came from, you stupid towel-heads!" he screamed.
I froze, one foot in the cab.
"Keep moving, Khushbakht. Ignore him," whispered my mother, urging me into the yellow taxi.
I remained frozen, unable to move. I stared at the boy. Male, about 16 years old. Brown hair. Brown eyes. He wore Bermuda shorts and a polo shirt. Very average, very normal. He could be anyone. The boy bagging the groceries. The boy who sat next to me in Algebra. The paper boy. Yet, this one was significant because he was yelling at us. At me.
"What are you starin' at you terrorists?! Get the hell off this street! We don't want you here!"
My mother pushed me inside the cab and climbed in after me. The taxi driver turned, forced to drive past the boy standing in his driveway in order to get us home.
"Yeah, you! You filthy traitor terrorists Muslims! Leave, and don't come back! This isn't your country!" he screamed, and threw a baseball at our passing cab. It bounced off the windshield, leaving a crack and rolled off the hood as our cab driver sped off.
"Mom... why was he saying that?" I asked, shell-shocked.
"Sometimes these things happen. It's alright, it's not his fault. He's ignorant, he's young, and this is what he's been taught."
"No. No. That's no excuse. How could he say that? I'm just as American as he is. What's so different between me and him?" I asked weakly.
"Sometimes, the color of your skin, the way you carry yourself, anything different at all is enough to breed intolerance," our cab driver softly uttered, her chocolate skin gleaming in the passing streetlights. "Don't worry child. We are not all like him."
"But... I don't understand. That can't be the only reason. This is America! this country was made so that different people could live together in harmony! I'm American! I'm patriotic! I know the national anthem; I say the pledge of allegiance every day. What's so different about his upbringing and mine? We both grew up watching Arthur and reading Junie B. Jones. This is America for God's sake. The land of the free and the home of the brave! What happened to the constitution? What happened to freedom from religious oppression?" I fumed, a desperate note in my voice.
My mother looked at me with a sad, knowing smile on her face.
"No! Just because I'm Muslim, I'm a terrorist? Is that what you think too?" I asked the cab driver bitterly. "That we're stupid towel heads who should go back to where we came from? That we're all terrorists?"
She remained silent, staring straight ahead. Just when I thought she wouldn't answer, she softly said, "Child, your battle isn't with me."
"Then who is it with?"
"Khushbakht! Stop it!" My mother said sharply.
I sat silently in the backseat, infuriately staring out the window.
"Let me tell you something, child," the cabdriver gently said. "Getting angry won't solve anything. It won't make them accept you. The way to show them that you too, are human, that you too, are a person, and not just a labeled product of propaganda, is actually quite simple...
You must meet intolerance with tolerance. You must fight ignorance with knowledge. You must accept who you are and be at peace with the person you've become first, and only then will anyone accept you. You must meet hate with love, my dear. And that is how you combat this sort of adversity."
To this day, I do not know the names of either the boy who screamed his words of anathema and bigotry, or the woman who softly taught me the most valuable lesson of my life. I was an angry and defensive teenager who had just moved to Georgia recently after 9/11. I had never before faced this sort of intolerance. After 9/11, it was hard enough accepting myself and my cultural identity as a Pakistani muslim when it seemed as if the whole world had labelled us as 'terrorists.' That woman taught me that you cannot meet hate with hate. Instead, you must face intolerance with tolerance. She taught me that you must be proud of who you are and respect yourself before anyone else will respect you. She showed me that for every bigot in the world, there was a kinder and more tolerant person.
The lessons she taught me impacted me greatly. They have helped me become the person that I am today. I realize now that she was right on every count. In order to fix something wrong in the world, you must be prepared to change it yourself. As Cherie Carter Scott once said, "Anger makes you smaller, while forgiveness forces you to grow beyond what you were." Today, I do not counter this sort of outright prejudice with resentment and fury any longer. Instead of becoming angry and insolent, I now introduce to these people the power of knowledge in order to combat their ignorance with the might of my words; to help them understand that intolerance will never solve anything.