Second place essay
Learning to be Righteous
The Righteous Among the Nations were extremely brave people with a lot of grit and determination. When Adolf Hitler came to power, they could not and would not stand for the injustice that was happening around them and across the world. By standing up for what was right they saved so many people from the Nazis. Though the consequences for helping Jewish people out of the way of harm were terrible, these brilliant people never backed down. They built hiding places for people who were put in harm’s way. They brought food, water, medicine, and other necessities to people who had almost no chance of survival in the concentration camps. They found multiple ways to smuggle people out of dangerous situations. The Righteous Among the Nations, along with Holocaust survivors, deserve to be remembered.
As I was doing some research, the character traits that stood out to me the most, were bravery, kindness, grit, determination, and most prominently, persistence. One example is Sofka Skipwith, a Russian princess who helped save Jews from being deported. She kept in touch with the French Resistance, handed out fake documents to Jewish youth and gave a list of names to people who would help them stay safe from deportation. She and the rest of these incredible people persisted with their actions even though the world was dangerous, and their bravery could cost them their lives, their family’s lives, and the lives of the people they were trying to save. They persisted even when it became harder and harder for them to get people away from danger. They persisted after they had been arrested and threatened. They would not stand for the injustice in their world, and they showed it through what they did for people targeted by the Nazis.
We still have injustice in our world today. People of different genders, sexuality, race, and religion are constantly discriminated against. In many more cases than should be acceptable, the consequence for being different is death. It is difficult to argue that society has learned from its past, especially since so many people are denying other groups basic human rights today. Many people might see Jewish people as the brave group who persevered through the terrifying horrors of the Holocaust, but they should not have had to persevere through this at all. A very similar thing is happening with members of the Black, Muslim, Indigenous and LGBTQ+ community today. People still refuse to see the similarities. For example, in Beijing, Muslims are being forced to renounce their religion. Nearly a million Chinese people have been put in “re-education camps” where they are forced to listen to lectures and sing hymns praising the Chinese Communist Party. The main target of the people running these camps is Muslim minorities. Chinese Communists view all religions including Christianity as superstitions that must be wiped out. They forbid people to have beards, or to fast during Ramadan, and they force people to eat pork and drink alcohol, which are not allowed in Islam. They are trying to get rid of the Islam religion, much like the Nazi Party was trying to rid the world of the Jewish religion. It is very hard to know that people cannot live a peaceful life just because they are not like certain people.
We also have injustice in the United States and there are many people fighting that injustice. In the year of 2020, there were nearly five thousand rallies and gatherings in the United States protesting racial injustice and police violence. On June sixth, fifty thousand to eighty thousand people protested in Philadelphia alone. Research shows that up to ninety-three percent of these protests have been peaceful. Yet, by the end of June 2020, at least fourteen-thousand protesters had been arrested. Even at peaceful protests, protesters have been treated extremely poorly. They have been beaten, tear gassed, tasered, and even killed. Everyone who protests knows the dangers, yet they get out and join each other in making their voices heard, just as many of the Righteous Among the Nations faced the dangers of their time. The determination of the Black Lives Matter protestors has led to millions of people fighting for what is right, for the good of their community, and for the good of all people.
On January sixth, 2021, nearly two-thousand people formed a mob outside of the U.S. Capitol Building. They were unhappy with the results of the presidential election and believed that their president had lost because of fraud. By that afternoon, this mob of angry people had overrun the Capitol. These people were armed with guns, knives, tear gas, and other weapons. Yet, when police got to the scene, the rioters were escorted out of the building, calmly and carefully, as if they were the ones who had been in danger. Most of the people in the mob were white. They were treated well. Most people in Black Lives Matter protests are black. They are not treated well. The majority of Black Lives Matter protesters were unarmed and completely harmless. The difference in the way the black protesters and white rioters were treated truly shows how racism is still a huge problem in today’s society.
When asked about what character traits I possessed that would enable me to fight against injustice, I had to think. I had to think for quite a bit. Thinking of the traits that stood out to me, I realized I did not think of myself possessing the character traits of the Righteous Among the Nations. The only thing I could think of that applied to myself, was kindness. To me, that seemed like the weakest trait. How am I to make a difference only using kindness? However, I have realized that kindness is sometimes all a person needs. Sometimes all a person needs is to know that another person sees them and accepts them for who they are. After years of fighting for justice, people need somewhere or someone they can go to for a moment of peace. If kindness is all I can give, that is what I am going to give. A time will come when I must persist, be brave, or grit my teeth and dive in. But until that day comes, I will work towards making a better world for people around me, and I will give what I can.
There are actions we need to take to prevent history repeating itself. Of course, we must look at the past so that we may learn from our mistakes and errors. It is important to stand up and fight against injustice and hate. History is already repeating itself, but by learning how mistakes were made in the past, and learning from the Righteous Among the Nations, we can stop the past in its tracks and make new history.
Ramona Benson is an eighth-grader attending Chase Middle School in Spokane and a student of Mrs. Sylling.
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