Some people think that anti-Semitism died in 1945 with the end of World War II, but they are wrong. They’re not bad, they’re just wrong. I know. I’ve been a victim, and this is my story.
I thought the day was going to be like any other, but I was totally unprepared for what happened. I was in history class discussing heroes when two boys started harassing me. They were drawing swastikas and making Nazi salutes. One thought that Hitler was a hero and wanted to make him the subject of his essay. That kind of ignorance hit me really hard - my grandparents were in concentration camps. I wanted to tell them that, but I couldn’t. Why not? Because I was afraid they would treat my family’s experiences like a joke. Well, it’s not funny! It’s ignorant and hurtful and something that shouldn’t be ignored.
Prejudice is seen every day in different forms against many people because of skin color, religion, nationality, anything that is considered “different.” Sometimes it just takes one person to start others behaving in a way they normally wouldn’t. I was surprised to find one person willing to harass me and convince another to join.
This experience really got me thinking about human nature. Why do people feel they have to degrade others? Are we programmed to be mean, or is this behavior learned? I think it is the latter, and I want to do something about it.
I decided to become active in my school’s student government and ran for vice-president of the club that promotes cultural exchange. Although I lost, my appetite was whetted for greater glory, so I am going to run for president of my class. My platform is to create wider cultural exchange between differences. This experience, terrible as it was, has given me the courage to act. Although it may take just one person to promote hatred, it also takes just one person to stand against it.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.