MY POINT IS... Paying tribute to Tootsie

Nita Johnson

The in-person voting procedure for Kentucky's primary election began this week and I was one of many who cast my choices on Monday. I have since tried to spread the word around that this option is available and encourage everyone to utilize your right to vote.

We live in a world of discord. Right now our nation is recuperating from the coronavirus, while trying to re-establish some sense of normal with our economy. Right now we are dealing with racism and social injustice with protests and insistence that all people be treated equally as our Constitution guarantees.

But the issues of social injustice are far-reaching and will not be resolved in a short amount of time.

Our nation has a history of discrimination and injustice. Slavery is a part of history that most wish could be eradicated from the history books and the minds of the African Americans who were treated so terribly.

The Irish immigrants were another population that underwent extreme discrimination. Because many of them were unprepared for the lifestyle in America, they cramped up in small spaces in homes. Without proper sewage and running water, many of these immigrants became subject to diseases such as cholera, typhus, tuberculosis and mental illness. Other families moved out from the neighborhood when the Irish moved in because they feared potential infection.

The Swiss immigrants who came to Kentucky in the 1880s also had their fair share of hardships. What they believed to be a "new world" for themselves was instead a wilderness where they had to re-establish their lifestyles. Over the years, they learned to deal with the Appalachian area where their new lives began, but it was only through consistent hard work.

Then we have Native Americans. The Native Americans populated this country when the first explorers and settlers put their foot upon the hallowed landing spot. Although pictures show the Pilgrims and Native Americans happily enjoying a Thanksgiving meal, the real truth is that such an event came only through some intense cooperation on both sides.

Over the years, as the population increased, this network of Native Americans were pushed farther and farther to the west and have now become integrated into their own communities in select areas of the land that once belonged solely to them.

In 1979 and early 1980, immigrants from Iran became a target of discrimination after some terrorists held Americans hostage for several months. As a college student, I was appalled at the incident. But I was even more upset when a fellow student was severely beaten one evening by some local residents who believed he was of the Iranian descent. (He wasn't.)

The realm of discrimination is not targeted just on one population over the years. As a resident of Kentucky - and part of the Appalachian culture - I have found myself undergoing discrimination in numerous situations. Growing up poor was like a target on my back during the high school years. My clothes, shoes, weight and social status were the source of ridicule by some other students, and the impact of being made to feel inferior has a definite and long-term effect on the self-esteem. For many, it takes years to ever find that inner peace of knowing who you are and respecting yourself.

It is imperative that each of us search deep within ourselves to appreciate who we are as human beings. It is the time that we all put aside our prejudices and see everyone as an individual who has the same emotions that we experience. It is vital that each person who is registered to vote go out and support the leaders that they believe will best represent their interests and the future of our nation.

America has endured many hardships over its history. The success of this country hinges on the strength and endurance that signifies the freedoms we have. But our success lends credit to the contributions of each population, each group of people who have come to this country to seek a better life. It is crucial to the furthered success of our nation that we realize that all people are indeed created equal under God's eyes and that we are charged with treating everyone with respect and appreciation for their unique qualities.

Until we can do that, we will continue with social injustice and upheaval in our country and thus tear down the walls that have separated us over the past 200-plus years.

Nita Johnson is a staff writer at the Sentinel-Echo. You can contact her at njohnson@sentinel-echo.com.

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