When this student sees Richard Riley at the dinner in Washington, D.C., he immediately notices their sharp differences in race, culture, and socio-economic status, but soon realizes that Riley seems deeply committed to education and the future of children in the United States.
While Riley is completely different from this student in various ways, the politician’s beliefs allow him to find common ground with this student in terms of goals and ideals, if not in terms of appearance or culture.
When he hears Riley talk about fighting discrimination in the South, he is reminded of the night his brother was shot simply for being black. He, his brother, and a couple of friends were driving innocently when a car full of Mexicans started shooting at them. His brother was wounded and couldn’t drive anymore, so this student quickly took the wheel and drove to a gas station to call the police. He noticed that the car was so damaged it looked like it had been in a war. After being taken to the nearest hospital, his brother went into surgery for six hours, luckily emerging alive. The doctors told the student that he was a hero, because he got his brother into the hospital soon enough, thus saving him from death.
In this student’s life, racial and ethnic discrimination is so extreme that it affects one’s very survival. At the same time, actions motivated by racial hatred seem completely senseless, since they often affect innocent people the attackers do not even know. The student’s mention of war, as well as the fact that the doctor calls him a hero, emphasize the extreme situation of violence in which this student finds himself, as ordinary activities such as driving one’s car can have life-and-death consequences.
The student wants Riley to read his story so that he can see that the shooters merely shot his brother because of racial hatred and ignorance. He hopes that people like these shooters can be educated so that they learn to see beyond racial differences.
This student believes in education as a means of reforming people immersed in violence, trusting that racial hatred is not necessarily the result of malice but of ignorance.