Dear Mr. Ross,
I hope you find this email in good health. I was a student at Lincoln Elementary School. Although I am quite certain that you do not remember me, I wish to express my sincere thanks to you.
Approximately 10 years ago, a few days after the 9/11 attacks, one of my fellow classmates gave me my first dose of discrimination. I never learned how you figured it out because I never told anyone. You pulled me from the rest of my class, took me aside privately, and said something that has stuck with me. “I know that girl called you a terrorist. I spoke with her and she will not do it again. If anyone says anything like that to you or does anything to you, make sure to tell me, you got that?”
Mr. Ross – Although these words may not seem much, they meant the world to me especially during such a time of fear and uncertainty. Imagine yourself in my shoes – a 9-year old who was being singled out by the highest authority (‘the principal’) to receive an exclusive invitation to express my thoughts.
As a 4th grader and someone who lived all my life in the United States, I was confused as to how people could possibly equate me to the 9/11 hijackers. Not only did you acknowledge the existence of the discrimination, but you took action and sought justice on my behalf albeit a simple verbal reprimand.
Most importantly, you provided me with the gift of understanding and a space to seek assistance. No one compelled you to take the time and effort to do so and for this you have my utmost gratitude and respect.
Last year, I graduated from UCLA and am currently finishing up my MBA at California Lutheran University. Shortly before deciding to write this letter, I learned that you serve as an administrator for the teaching program at CLU.
If you’re on campus, I’d like to meet up with you and thank you in person.
Photo: Flickr/ horizontal.integration