I’ll first give a background on this so-called community: ~85-90% Asian, upper-middle class, and academically high-achieving. It’s inevitable to form an image in your mind when you encounter these labels, and perhaps that’s the best way to understand the group I’m referencing. According to pure statistics and socio-economic status, we’re a pretty homogeneous cohort, and not many know what it’s like outside the bubble of this community.
Outrageous, right? You’re probably thinking, who would ever think that?
It was this moment when I glanced at the screenshots of the conversation, in which I had a sudden realization, and it was an absolutely terrible one. I finally figured out what it was like to not be able to speak, as if there was a voice screaming in my head but I did not, could not, verbalize my thoughts. A fury of emotions clashed through my brain–hatred, anger, frustration, and surprise–yet not a single one of these feelings could be expressed. I was not a part of the group chat, so it was impossible for me to get my message to others. At the same time, if I were to communicate with said members personally, I was faced with the potential derogatory labels and accusations of “starting drama.” I thought, so this is what it felt like to be a marginalized group and not have the power of voice. This is how some people live every single moment of their lives, feeling powerless and invisible.
A habit that the United States (or should I say the 13 colonies) developed that is truly an “American” characteristic is the concept of voice–everyone is involved with adequate representation. But three hundred years ago, this “everyone” was only people that mattered: white males. Today, voice and representation has greatly expanded to include other groups, but there is still so much work to be done. I think having voice is the most powerful tool for change in contemporary society. But not only should we have it, we need to use our voices.
We need spaces where we feel safe to express opinions without negative consequences. This type of space needs to have free communication without regard to status, a horizontal platform where everyone is equal in ability and value. These types of spaces, whether physical or even on the internet, have the potential to create vast change–serving purposes like the taverns where the public conglomerated revolutionary ideas that spurred the American Revolutionary War.
When you see something that is socially unacceptable and just utterly immoral, speak up. The silence is a sign of acceptance, which will only further those terrible ideas that can put others at risk. And when others are trying to make their voice heard, help them create that space where they feel safe to release their point of view. Use what God gave you to create change for the better.
The first protest I participated in was during the summer of 2017 at a debate camp at the University of Michigan. Debaters (of all genders) dressed in all black and marched around the campus while playing music about empowering females of color in order to protest the lack of action against a few male debaters who deliberately scorned black debaters and female debaters (the things they did are too horrible to publicize on this blog). Prior to the march, camp staff were reluctant to do anything about the incident. However the protest brought awareness to the camps’ directors, who immediately expelled the male debaters involved in the discriminatory remarks.
This protest showed to me that people of all ages, ethnicities, cultures, and identities can come together for a worthy cause and bring change.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”