Although difficult to find any official data on the number of Americans who have passports, the closest, most reasonable figure appears to be 20%. That means 80% of Americans have never left the country; have never been to Europe for example. Historically, as a large, isolated country, with two oceans as borders, it makes sense. Just as importantly however, Americans seem to be somewhat “backyard minded”, my phrase. At the end of the Wizard of OZ, the Tin Woodsman asked Dorothy what she’s learned on her trip to OZ and she says, “Well, I – I think that it – it wasn’t enough to just want to see Uncle Henry and Auntie Em – and it’s that – if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with”! In a way that sums up many Americans’ feelings about the world. We have it all here, why would we want to venture out there? The only problem with that logic is the world is a beautiful place with many extraordinary sights, attractions and people. France is a beautiful country and Parisians are wonderful people, but most Americans, who have obviously never been there, have negative feelings about the French. The point is, until you travel, until you meet different people, don’t judge them. Having an open mind, allows one to experience things they might not have thought possible. It’s the very reason racism exists; lack of contact with people from other races and religions. I have a friend whose grandmother grew up in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. She never met a Jewish person or a black person and referred to both groups by racist names. Perhaps not entirely her fault because that’s how she was raised. However, the reason for her racist attitudes stemmed from her lack of education, perhaps making it through grade 7. If you aren’t “better” than anyone else, the way to make yourself feel better is to put others down. In truth, not every Jewish person is cheap, black people hold many important professional positions and not every Mexican is attempting to cross the border. David Martinez, billionaire, financier from Mexico, lives in one of the most expensive apartments in Manhattan, high above Columbus Circle in the Time Warner Center. Women are every bit as capable as men and more so, given the opportunity. If there are any groups to justifiably stereotype and dislike, its white males and religious fanatics. Both groups attempt to hold on to power by subjugating other groups. It’s the reason that even today, full-time female workers earn 15-20% less than their male counterparts. Some of that may be attributable to being less aggressive but estimates are that 5%-7% is simply due to gender discrimination. If we are to ever truly eliminate racism and discrimination in this country, we must change our way of thinking. We must broaden the way we view others and stop judging people without any empirical knowledge. We must accept that the more Americans improve their standards of living the better off we all are. Competition is a good thing, it’s what drives ingenuity. It should not be perceived as a threat. People must stop stereotyping and hating others because of fear and because it’s easy to hate those you’ve never met. Only then will we truly live up to all the ideals that have made this country the beacon of hope for so many.