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Amazing Grace Essay, Research Paper

?Amazing Grace?

The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation

Jonathan Kozol

Currently there are about 600,000 people who live in the South Bronx and about

434,000 who live in Washington Heights and Harlem. This area makes up one of the most

racially segregated areas of poor people in the United States. In this book we focus

on Mott Haven, a place where 48,0000 of the poorest people in the South Bronx live.

Two thirds of the people are Hispanic, one-third are black and thirty-five percent are

children. There are nearly four thousand heroin users, and one-fourth of the women who

are tested are positive for HIV. All of this and more in one little area of the South Bronx.

In the middle of all this chaos and confusion are children. Children who have daily drills

on what to do if gunshots are heard, children who know someone who has died of AIDS,

children who have seen someone been shot right in front of their face wondering if its their

father, children who long to be sanitation workers, and children who die everyday. The

lives of these children almost seem lost with depression, drugs, and death all around them.

As we see, there are little sparks of light in most of these children?s eyes, sparks of light

that show just how innocent and intellectual they really are.

Mott Haven seems like a place that no one could even imagine existing. A place

so distant from most peoples reality that it could only exist in a Spike Lee film. A

government owned ghetto that people are just thrown into when the don?t fit into normal

society. A place that can be shunned and feared and easy to get away from simply by

shutting a newspaper. One would think that the resources necessary to get these people

back on their feet would be available but we see that they aren?t. Children still die from

falling into faulty elevators, people die from having to wait 4 days in a hospital corridor

just to receive treatment, fires occur on a daily basis, rats are like a family pet when not

gnawing on a defenseless baby for the third time, soup kitchens are filled to capacity

and many are denied services that are long overdue such as food stamps. Discrimination

and prejudice are so prevalent, you would think that the state of New York would want to

do something. Why do these people get overlooked?

One form of prejudice that I couldn?t help but noticing was the medical waste

incinerator built on Locust Avenue. Originally it was going to built in another part of

New York, but when parents complained of cancer worries they decided to build in Mott

Haven, despite the protest of the parents there. It seems as if they didn?t even care about

the welfare of these people, these people can get cancer because they?re already

?unclean?. The people of Mott Haven, as seen in Jean Kilbourne?s discussion ?Deadly

Persuasions?, seem to portrayed as not human. If the people of NY see them as less of a

person, then its easier to overlook them.

Cultural bias is another form of prejudice. Cultural bias can be in the form of

standardized test to get into a better school or even to get a better job. Access to

resources makes it harder for minorities to get ahead. If a child can?t even get proper

schooling due to teachers not wanting to pass 96th street to teach, what are they suppose

to do? Some wait hours for care in a hospital because they?re too afraid to hop on the

train to go into Manhattan and go to a nicer hospital where care would be available

sooner. Why are they scared, because they fear they won?t be accepted there. They feel

they would probably get less respect there than if they stayed where they felt they belong.

The discrimination that is present in Mott Haven is in the form of racial

segregation. Discrimination is an attitude put into action. The action here is that these

people are being ignored. It truly is amazing how the South Bronx and Harlem make up

the most racially segregated area in the United States. While this is true, the issue is never

discussed politically. Its like segregation isn?t even present in the state of NY because it is

not talked about.

The main form of segregation takes place in the school system. Kozol states that

two-thirds of Americans black children know few, if any, white people. One reason

for this is white families themselves who take children out of schools in their

neighborhoods. What confidence can these children receive knowing that others don?t

want to be around them. What are the suppose to think about the United States itself. Do

you think they wonder why their country would let them grow up like this? Of course

they do. The sad thing is that some of the children think that this is all their is, their new

life of joy is only available in heaven, where they wear white nightgowns because they?re

angels. Many of these children go into Manhattan around Christmas and see NY how it

should be, then they return home and nothing has changed.

Drugs seem to be very prevalent around Mott Haven, mostly because it seems as if

these men and women have nothing better to do. This just seems to strengthen the

stereotype that all blacks are drug users and lazy. Maybe its because they really do have

nothing better to do. For many, drugs are an escape from the reality that they live in.

Everyday, from 9:00 am to 12:00 midnight people are out at Children?s Park buying,

selling and using drugs. Calderon, Mott Havens most notorious drug lord until his

murder, thinking of the children?s welfare stopped the selling of drugs during the hours

that children are coming home from school. I believe that was a good idea on his part.

This action kind of proved that these people aren?t just all about the drugs, they don?t

want kids to start ending up like them, they have just lost all hope for themselves. This

stereotype is what I think makes the state of NY not want to help these people. Why

should they believe these people want to improve their lives if their just doing drugs,

contracting AIDS and dying?

Despite all this, these children still have a light in their eyes. One Stuyvesant

principle said, ?Everything these kids touch turns to gold.? Of course this school is said to

produce more doctors than any other high school in the United States. What is the

symbolism behind that? For the children of Mott Haven, are they truly innocent until

proven guilty? The racist ideology doesn?t apply to them until someone makes them feel

like it does. These children are not deemed inferior. One child stated that he wanted to be

an x-ray technician one day. Even though the child said it with a shrug, the thought was

still there.

The sadness these people experience is just heart wrenching. No one should have

to deal with this kind of racism. No one should be forced to the bottom of society and

deemed so inferior that they shouldn?t even be helped. People shouldn?t have to feel like a

monster that no one wants to see or speak of. The people of Mott Haven just want help,

they want normal lives just like everyone else. Kozol?s venture into this ?world? was very

courageous and forthright. The depiction of these people he showed truly should make

NY think of what they are exactly doing to this community and these children.

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