I have struggled for the past year with how to make the best use of my voice to counter the emotional, physical, and mental violence that has been inflicted on minorities and marginalized communities. The pain, anger, and utmost helplessness that I experienced following the 2016 inauguration was something I have easily brushed off in my daily life. I watched and listened as new policies and society’s newfound comfort in displaying hate had a direct impact on those around me near and far while remaining relatively unscathed. Today, I made a decision to take a step out of my comfort zone to directly counter the Patriot Prayer Rally set to take place in Crissy Field. This was the point at which I decided that I cannot continue to let black and brown PoC bear the burden of fighting hate against all PoC and minorities.
As an Asian-American, I have become fully aware of my privileges. Due to sheer luck of having been born into my family, I am a documented citizen of the US. A park ranger recently let my niece and I stay in a closed parking lot after hours to watch the Perseid meteor shower–something that likely would not have happened for other PoC. I have, for the most part, been spared of a lifetime of anxiety, second-guessing, and health issues that arise from fear of constantly being targeted. However, I also sometimes I have my moments–and I hope that others will allow me to have my moments–when I want to let out a small yelp: “Hey, I’m a minority too.” Because I have been overlooked and underestimated as an Asian-American woman, I know I’m not afforded the full privileges of a white man.
Sometimes a blessing and other times a curse, I am and have almost always been surrounded by other Asian-Americans. The curse has always been feeling comfortable in my bubble. If I have felt comfortable around my community for my entire life, was I growing as a person? Should I have allowed myself to not feel this comfort? The blessing, among many others, has been the familiarity and ability to speak in safe spaces about our similar experiences. Most recently, the increased awareness of my privileges and need to speak up as a privileged PoC would never have been made apparent without the presence, support, and genuine and unapologetic conversations of my friends, classmates, relatives, professors, and colleagues, both Asian and non-Asian.
I’ve limited my social and racial justice work to my career in city and transportation planning. Visions of systemic and policy changes were why I entered the field of City Planning. I still believe in the power to improve social justice through city planning. City planning is a way for me to pursue these changes from a high level while not having to outright be vocal about my political views to the rest of the world. My work is my voice. But lately, I have felt something missing in my efforts. I want to use my voice to demonstrate to the larger sphere of this world that I will not tolerate hate. It is not enough to claim that I am achieving this through my work because I have come to realize that I am just hiding behind my work.
Following the recent events in Charlottesville, I took to reading Elie Wiesel’s Night. The book, his story, the events, and the sentiments all seem relevant now as we see fascists and Nazism re-emerge in the US and other areas of the world. One of Elie Wiesel’s most famous quotes is:
We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
And so from here on, I will make a more concerted effort to vocally take sides and let it be known. Want to talk about it? I’m open.
(possibly to be continued post)