Facing Hate with a Voice of Reason
“I wish I’d paid more attention on my swimming lessons. Every time I look around, I’m drowning in a sea of white.”- young me
My parents wanted to make a good life for us raising us in white suburbia, a safe life. While these hopes kept true, our community would shape many other pieces of our lives, from our self esteem to the way we spoke. It didn’t take long for us to realize that our difference would affect us, we would have to be blind to believe otherwise.
I remember going on a family walk to see our new neighborhood. Within seconds police sirens sang out next to us and a man clad in full uniform approached.
“A few members of this town called reporting suspicious activity around the neighborhood. They said there were a few people walking around.”
“What exactly do you assume, my wife, 10 year old, 8 year old, 4 year old twins and I are up to?”
The officer paused for a moment, giving my father a stern look. “Nothing. You have a safe journey back to your town.”
“This is my town.”
The discrimination only became more apparent from there. It was draining, but bearable. We were strong, the one mindedness of our neighbors we could handle.
Then came February 2013, my sophomore year of high school.
Four boys posed around a lynched black dummy wearing pointed hoods, reminiscent of KKK and took a picture, which circulated like wildfire. I couldn’t fathom the idea that my own peers could operate on such a baseless, racist mindset, that after all these years, respect remained something we had to fight for. In the story, “To Kill a Mockingbird," disturbing circumstances forced young Scout to become aware of the ideals of her community and the people in it. In this moment, I became more aware of blatant racism and prejudice that slithered through my community like sin and was forced to make a choice; separate myself, or speak out.
It is no easy task looking into the face of pure hatred and choosing to respond with peace, but I did. In response to the racist picture I began mic nights, where myself and other students in my community voiced our opinions on serious situations through performance, bringing light to gray areas in my community such as racism. I met with leaders in my district and ran a multicultural organization offering counsel to students affected by the recent events. The number of students was heartbreaking. Through this experience I learned change is far from completion, but after seeing the effect my response had on my fellow students I knew that change was possible. It’s difficult to be a pariah, but speaking out against wrong was the only thing I knew, and continues to be the only thing I know. Like Atticus Finch who is faced with the difficult decision to go against his communities ideals, I choose justice, and will continue to be an advocate for that choice.