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Letters About Literature National Winners 2010

National Honor Winner, Level 1: Sydney Hodgin, SC

Dear Mr. John Howard Griffin,

Your book, Black Like Me, has inspired me in so many different ways. It has affected how I have chosen my friends, the church that I attend, and also how I interact within my community. Your book reinforced what my parents have always taught me: skin color does not make a difference in how you should treat people and that what makes a person is what they have on the inside.

I live in South Carolina, in the southern part of the United States. Racism is a big part of how many Southern families live. It is passed on from one generation to another. Many kids where I am from are raised thinking that African-American people are different from themselves. Some parents believe that their children should not date, be friends with, or talk to African-Americans. I totally disagree! We are all the same and equal on the inside, but different on the outside. God created us this way intentionally.

God also created us to be individuals. Some people have accents, some have special talents. Others may be poor, while their neighbor wealthy. Every individual is different, no matter what color they are. Some of us love basketball, while others enjoy playing tennis. Some of us participate in swimming meets often, while others dance at competitions.

I think it would be interesting to be a different race temporarily. You could see how different people of different backgrounds treat and react towards each other. This topic should not have to even be brought up today in our world, but racism seems a daily thing I witness. I really respect your courage when you disguised yourself as a "colored" person and traveled around the South proving that African-Americans are treated differently, still. It truly is amazing how you get treated and hospitalized differently based on your race, religion, and other reasons.

At my school, there are lots of racist people. They really get me charged up because all I am thinking to myself is, "Why?" Judging someone just because they look different than you has no logical value. Your book helped me to see and feel how African-Americans feel when they are treated differently.

For example, when my family had a sign in our front yard that supports President Barack Obama, kids made fun of me. One of my friend's parents will no longer let them watch the reality television show, American Idol, because one of the judges is gay. Another example of racism that my sister witnessed is when a high-school girl confronted her and said, ''The only reason Obama won the presidential election is because all of the ignorant black people voted for him just because he is black." All of these reasons lead up to why I love how you have written your book. It has helped me greatly in understanding the sad reality of racism.


Sydney Hodgin