Northern New Mexico's Community Network

Think Globally, Act Locally to Promote Tolerance
by Sara Trujillo

The dictionary says tolerance means "to put up with". Learning to be tolerant of everyone may help, but if we are to learn to live together and work together, it is not enough. It is not enough to see Taos as where we live. We live in the whole world. What happens in New York or anywhere happens to us. That is what I learned on September 11.

I was in Language Arts class when my teacher told us that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City. She turned on the radio and the room got quiet. We heard them say it was not an accident. Terrorists had done it on purpose. I was not sure what a terrorist was, but I knew they were bad and I was scared. One student asked, "Why should we care. It is so far away from here?" The teacher said, " It doesn't matter that we are in New Mexico. It could happen anywhere".

The bell rang and I went on to Math class. The teacher had already turned on the radio. We sat down and continued to listen. After a few minutes the teacher asked if we wanted to talk about what had happened or to write down our thoughts and turn them in. That is what we did. Some of the students wrote about being afraid but a lot wrote about children losing their parents. It was sad for us to think about. My teacher was very upset and said, "I know this is a very sad day for all of us".

It got worse. They told us four planes had crashed. Two crashed into the World Trade Center, one crashed into the Pentagon and one crashed in the woods in Pennsylvania. The Trade Center fell down. Two of my classmates had family who worked there. They died. A lot of people died. Police and firemen trying to help had been killed. It was like a very bad dream that would not stop.

When I got home from school that day, I tried hard not to think about what had happened. I did not turn on the radio or TV. I could not stand it anymore.

It was on the news every day. We learned the people who did it came from a little country called Afghanistan. They did it because they hated Americans. I heard people on the television trying to explain why they hated us. They think all Americans are rich and that all Americans don't care what happens to other people. They do not know us. They don't know some of us are not rich. They don't know some of us care. I think that is the problem. They don't know us and we don't know them.

I know what it is like to be treated badly by people who don't know me. I am a Native American. I live at Taos Pueblo and go to the Taos Pueblo Day School. Last year, I was chosen to take my project on diabetes to the national science fair in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I felt proud to be representing my school, my pueblo and my state at the nationals. One of my friends and I were walking through the exhibits when a white teenager came up and asked me, "Are you Native American?" I said "yes" and he laughed and said "Are Native Americansthe same same as Negroes?" I just walked away but I felt like running away. It hurt a lot.

It happens in Taos. I can walk down the street. People I know are nice to me. People I don't know are usually nice. Then, for no reason, something bad will happen. One day I was picking up my cousin at the high school. A ninth grader came up to me and said, "only white kids can go here and Indians are special ed". I felt awful and I wanted to hit him.

Both of these people did not know me. They did not know anything about me. They made fun of me because I was Native American. I did not know them but I know I did not like them. I hated them because of what they did to me and I felt bad because I could not do anything about it.

I could stay on the Pueblo and not leave. On the Pueblo, I am just like everybody else and everybody knows me. I am comfortable and I am safe. I could go to an All-Indian high school in Santa Fe. I would be like everyone else. I would feel comfortable and I would be safe. People would not make fun of me because I am Native American. We would all be alike. But Taos and the world are not just Native American. I need to be able to live and to work in the outside world where people are different than me. I need to know other people and they need to know me.

That is why it is not enough just to put up with others. We must know others. We must know them as people the way I know my friends. I do not always agree with my friends. I do not always want to do what they want to do. But that is OK because they are my friends. They are different than me but it does not bother me and it does not bother them. We are still friends.

I think if we learn to know one another, things can be different. The terrorists did not know the people they killed. If they did, they might not have killed them. The people who were bad to me did not know me. If they did, they would not have made fun of me because I am Native American. We have to know each other. We do not have to be friends but we have to know each other. I think that is what community is all about. I can't meet and know everybody in the whole world. That is not possible. I can get to know as many people as I can. For those I don't know, I can learn about them so I feel like I know them. I can learn what makes them like me and I can learn what makes them different. I think we all have to do this.

For Taos, we could start with the schools. We could have meetings so all students could get to know each other. We could learn how we are alike and we could talk about our differences. We could tell each other about our families, about our communities and about our traditions. This could be done with the kids, their parents, maybe even people like the Mayor. If we did this, we could learn to know each other and we could become a community.

For the world, we could have classes where teachers could tell us about people who live in other parts of the world. We could learn how we are different and how we are the same. We might even have kids in other parts of the world who would write emails to us and we could write back.

Putting up with each other is not enough. We must learn to know each other if we are to live together in this world in peace.

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