(Part of the 2nd annual Student Voices Project)
Prompt: Why do people fight? What causes violent conflict? (i.e. race, money, religion, power, culture). How do people create peace? What ensures lasting peace?
Why Can’t We Get Along?
Kayla Hayes, Grade 6, Greene Street Friends School
I combined Story Time and Ponder because thinking about peace and conflict happens a lot. We all have a story about when we were in a fight. I bet everyone has been in a fight with friends and family. And when I saw the questions for Ponder, sparks started to fly in my head. At first I thought conflict was the worst thing that ever existed, but then I thought about what happens after the conflicts and how you can learn from your conflicts so you and your community can become stronger.
Why do we have conflicts? Having conflicts can make you a better person. Maybe other people see conflict as a bad thing, but after you get into a fight it can teach you a lesson. For example, during the Civil Rights Movement everyone started hurting each other, and now blacks and whites know that equality is the best policy. You can also learn from a conflict by the positive or negative effect it has on you. What do you think causes violent conflicts? Is it race, money, culture, religion, or power? Race and power causes violent conflicts. One violent conflict about power is Ukraine and Russia fighting about who should get Crimea, and one violent conflict about race is when Martin Luther King Jr. got shot and there were big riots. People want more power because the more power you have, the more control you have over certain things. I think people judge people by the color of their skin because they are afraid of someone different.
Often times, peace can come out of conflict. One time I had a conflict, and we solved the problem peacefully. My sister and I were fighting over the remote, and we ended up kicking, punching, slapping, and pulling each other until our mom came in and broke up the fight. I thought my mom was going to tell us no television for two weeks, but she made us hug each other until we had a solution, and that’s when I knew that we were going to be on that living room couch for a long time. Then my sister and I made an agreement that when one person gets the remote one day the other person can get it next time. I realized that talking it out was more effective than fighting. People create peace in different ways depending on what kind of person you are.
How do people create peace? Some people like to talk it out, and others just want to wait and see what will happen tomorrow. Everyone solves problems differently; it can sometimes depend on what kind of person you are or what type of problem it is, but you have to remember that sometimes problems don’t go away, so you have to at least try to solve the problem before it gets worse. What ensures lasting peace? I think just talking it out or trying to learn from the situation, and being aware of hurting people’s feelings. Also, try to put yourself in the person’s shoes and try to feel what they are feeling, because you can end up hurting more people, even people that you care about the most.
Kayla Hayes lives in Philadelphia, Pa., with her mom and sister. She loves to dance and do a lot of creative projects.
Peace Begins With Me
Imani Thomas, Grade 6, Sidwell Friends School
People fight mostly over the wrong things: differences. They fight about race, religion, ideas, equality, and justice. People fight for reasons both encouraged and discouraged. Even though there is really no good reason to physically fight, there are good reasons to fight other ways. A good reason is justice and equality, but a bad reason to fight is revenge. People fought about race during the Civil Rights Movement, when everything was segregated, because black people wanted to be treated equally, but whites wanted to be in control. This is a good fight because every person should have equal rights.
People fight about religion because they think that their religion is the only one that matters and anyone that isn’t the same religion is a lesser person. An example is the Holocaust when Adolf Hitler decided that he would try and wipe everyone out that was Jewish. People also fight about ideas because those with strong minds are most likely to be listened to. People fight about their ideas and their ideals. In the Civil Rights Movement, black and white people were fighting about their ideal society.
Conflict is based on the way you react—whether you handle it like a pacifist or someone that is violent. Deciding to handle a conflict like a pacifist is when you use words or peaceful protests, like boycotting, to express your feelings. It is against some religious beliefs like the Quakers and Buddhists to be violent. Violent conflict mostly occurs when people feel they are powerless, fed up, or threatened, therefore they strike out in anger. People enact violent conflict because they feel as if they would like to be in power. The recent events that have occurred in Libya are a great example of this because they are fighting right now. Additionally, the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, are a good example of dealing with conflict violently and like a pacifist. People are rioting and that is violent conflict, but people are also boycotting certain stores and that is a peaceful protest.
Creating peace in the world is important because it means that people wouldn’t have to be worried about having a war any day. Peace can be created by tolerating and appreciating differences of others. Peace begins with one person and his or her commitment to nonviolence. We should try to accept each other, making sure that everyone feels safe because we want to make this a better place for each other. In order to do that, we need to seek an understanding of others’ viewpoints. Individuals can always maintain peace by thinking peacefully. But what ensures everlasting peace in the larger world? Nothing. Each individual impacts his or her community in both good and bad ways by helping or not helping. People create peace in their communities by getting to know each other better from community events. Another way people create peace is by putting that into their schools. My old school Elsie Whitlow Stokes Public Charter School had a motto that said, “I will take care of myself, I will take care of others, and I will take care of my community.” To me this means that I am responsible for taking care of others and the areas I am a part of.
How do you know that you are creating peace? Ask your friends and family the questions throughout and compare their answers to yours. There will always be conflict in the world so you can’t really solve that forever, but you can create peace in your own life and community. You decide. As Veronica Roth (author of the Divergent series) says, “If you actually succeed in creating a utopia, you’ve created a world without conflict, in which everything is perfect. And if there’s no conflict, there are no stories worth telling—or reading!” This means that conflict can be both good and bad depending on the way you handle it. Peace is not the absence of conflict, but we need to be able to handle conflict appropriately. Peace is not what you plan to do, it’s what you actually do to make the world better.
Imani Thomas lives with her mom, dad, and two sisters. She loves to play basketball outside with her sister and dad. She likes to do many different sports.
Why Do People Fight?
Eliza Zurbuch, Grade 7, Carolina Friends School
I think that people fight because they get stuck in their own way of seeing things and can’t view a situation from another person’s standpoint. Kids often fight because they get wrapped up in their own opinions and the idea of someone else being at fault. They don’t take the time to consider the whole problem. In my Conflict Resolution class, my teacher always said that when you think about an argument, you need to zoom out and try to look at it from a different person’s perspective—whether it’s the person that you are fighting with or just a bystander.
I think that violent conflict rises when the fighting has gone on for long enough that people are so frustrated that they use violence. Sometimes it might feel like there won’t be movement in the argument unless there is some violence to respond to. When countries are in the middle of an argument, those disagreements can carry on for months or even years. Sometimes a way to break through is to use violence. I think this is wrong. I believe that anything can be solved without violence because hurting people isn’t going to help anything; it will just make it worse. I believe that anyone can make a difference. Sometimes the smallest actions can make the biggest difference. Rosa Parks, when asked to move to the back of the bus, refused. A refusal to change seats is a small action that stood for a larger goal. This small action then led to bus boycotts, and in conjunction with other small actions, snowballed into a bigger and effective movement that changed the world.
Creating peace could be easy if it were the ultimate goal of all people fighting. If people thought, “What do I need to do to change this and make it better?” instead of, “How can I prove that I am right?,” peace might come faster. People constantly think that they are right before they even know what really happened. I know that it is hard to stop and think about a conflict before I start jumping to conclusions. I am always trying to convince myself to think before I act, think about the entire situation, but sometimes when it’s in the heat of the moment, it’s easier said than done. I think that we all just need to try and put our best effort into thinking about the entire situation, how I could improve it, what the other person’s perspective might be, and what am I about to do.
What we really need is lasting peace. One way to create lasting peace is to create environments that feel safe for people to say their opinions without being judged. They can agree to disagree but to respect each other anyway. It seems so easy to say that to create lasting peace people just need to respect and listen to one another but it really needs to start there. I think that one of the largest parts of lasting peace is having people around you that understand you and can help you when needed. If every person made continuous small efforts to demonstrate nonviolence and lead forward peaceful movements, these actions would catch on and create a culture that promotes peace as opposed to violence.
Eliza Zurbuch lives in Durham, N.C., with her four siblings and her parents. She loves being part of a big family.
Liberty and Justice for All
Parker Alexander, Grade 6, Sidwell Friends School
In third grade, we covered the Japanese Americans being held in concentration camps during World War II. I wondered then, has America shown liberty and justice for all in its long history?
Three years later, I ponder that question again. Now that I’ve learned more about American history, I see that there have been terrible acts of excruciating pain and suffering—delivered by Americans.
I look back again to the Second World War. The Japanese Americans had done nothing to harm America! They were hard‐working, loyal citizens of America! But, after the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan, Americans decided, “We can’t trust them after what their country did to us.” They are American citizens! They do not belong to Japan, or should be associated with it! To make matters even worse, America dropped an atomic bomb on two Japanese towns as revenge, and people are still dying from the radiation! America caused the deaths of millions of people, who had done nothing wrong! They did not order the attack on Pearl Harbor. Did America not hear the sounds of death and pain they brought?
Now, I look back even further to the 1800s, when black people were used as slaves! They did it originally when they were a part of Britain, but even though the Pledge of Allegiance said that there was “liberty and justice for all,” they still continued doing it! The slaves had to do manual labor throughout the day, were punished by their owners, and sold and treated like animals! Did they not see that they were as human as white men and women? They gained their freedom, but then there was segregation, making them seem even more inferior! They never have been and never will be inferior to white people! Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement brought an end to segregation, but then Martin Luther King Jr. was killed! Did his killer not see that all he wanted was for everyone to be equal?
And now, I look at today. There is still prejudice against black people, even after segregation. It heated up again in 2012 with the death of Trayvon Martin, a black boy who was shot and killed by a neighborhood watchman! The case went to court, and the killer was found innocent! Thousands of people, myself included, believed and still believe that it was injustice to the boy! Then, this summer, a black boy named Michael Brown was shot and killed—by a white policeman! The court didn’t even indict the case, which made thousands of people mad again! Then, most recently, there were the deaths of Eric Garner and Tamir Rice. Eric was a black man who was choked by a white policeman, which was against police protocol! Not only that, but Eric had asthma. So, he died, and the court in New York didn’t indict the case either! Tamir was a black boy carrying a toy gun in a playground, who was shot and killed by a white policeman!
Don’t people see that we are all equal, or is every race other than whites going to be hunted down for being “inferior?” No one is inferior to anyone else, yet people still believe that some people are inferior!
Will my family or me be killed next? My mom, my siblings, and I are all black! Will we be shot for looking different, or being “inferior”? My dad, my siblings, and I are Japanese! Will we be shot for a crime that we did not commit?
Action will be taken. Over the weekend of December 13, 2014, there was a march in Washington, D.C., to say that black lives matter! And they are correct! All lives matter! But in order to accept that, they must look past the racism! As writer Chimamanda Adichie says, we must look past the “single story.” Only then, will there be liberty and justice for all.