Eva Fong wins Black History Month essay contest
Published 6:48 pm Friday, March 12, 2021
Eva Fong, a 10th-grader at Windsor High School, calls racism “an infectious disease” — one that, like COVID-19, continues to spread in 2021 via the actions or inaction of those who deny its existence or severity.
“The recent events of police brutality show that racism is still a rampant issue in our country … yet, we are not actively fighting against it,” Fong says. “Too many of us are bystanders; we see the racial injustices happening around us, but we do not try to stop them. That mentality does nothing to help the racial equality movement, and in turn, strengthens racism’s hold on our country.”
Fong is this year’s winner of The Smithfield Times’ Black History Month essay contest, open to high school students in Isle of Wight and Surry counties. Public, private and homeschooled students were asked to submit essays of up to 350 words on the theme of fulfilling Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of equality in 2021.
A panel of judges, which included The Smithfield Times Publisher Emeritus John Edwards and Isle of Wight NAACP President Valerie Butler, selected Fong’s essay out of all of the eligible entries following the Feb. 26 submission deadline.
“Eva’s use of metaphor in comparing racism to an infectious disease shows a maturity of thought that is exceptional for a 10th-grader,” Edwards said. “Her command of language and her grammar are excellent.”
Fong counts herself among those who were once ignorant of racism’s continued presence in American society.
“Although I had many encounters with social injustice when I was young, I did not know it was a bad thing,” she said. “I thought the derogatory terms and mimicking facial features were normal. I thought, ‘so this is America.’ I knew of racism, but my brain did not register those encounters as racist. Thankfully, at the start of high school, a good friend of mine made me realize the ugly truth. She also educated me on the ongoing racial discriminations against African Americans in our country.”
She’s been interested in social justice ever since. While she doesn’t consider herself an activist yet, Fong said she plans to “actively join the movement for racial equality” upon reaching adulthood.
“I’ve seen bystanders within our community and throughout our country, but the issue is more apparent in the latter,” Fong said. “I plan to educate more people on the issue at hand and encourage them to join the fight against racism. I urge everyone to spread awareness to people who are ignorant of the social injustice in our nation and step out of the crowd of bystanders and lend a helping hand.”
The state’s legislature shares Fong’s view of racism as a disease, having recently passed House Joint Resolution 537, which declares racism a public health emergency. If signed by Gov. Ralph Northam, the bill will make Virginia the first Southern state to pass such a declaration. The wording of the resolution references both individuals with racist beliefs and “institutional or structural systemic racism,” which “has manifested as a determinant to public health through persistent racial disparities in criminal justice, housing, education, health care, employment, worker protections, climate, outdoor access, food access and technology.”
Fong has lived in Isle of Wight County for 12 years. She hopes to further her education at a four-year college, possibly the University of Virginia or Virginia Tech, to pursue a degree in computer science.
For being the contest winner, Fong will receive a $100 check.
“Fulfilling Dr. King’s Dream of Equality in 2021”
By Eva Fong
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of his dream for racial equality more than 50 years ago. He envisioned a future where one is not judged by their skin but by their character.
Sadly, his dream remains unfulfilled. The recent events of police brutality show that racism is still a rampant issue in our country. Like the coronavirus, racism is an infectious disease that refuses to relinquish its grasp on us, yet we are not actively fighting against it. Too many of us are bystanders; we see the racial injustices happening around us, but we do not try to stop them.
That mentality does nothing to help the racial equality movement, and in turn, strengthens racism’s hold on our country. Instead, we must take action and demolish the unjust racial barriers in our community. We must expel the darkness that has been poisoning our land and bring about the righteous light of equality.
As Dr. King said, “we stand in life at midnight; we are always at the threshold of a new dawn.”