Taking the Fight to the Interior

What would a utopian Earth look like? Even if it doesn’t exist, is there a way for our current society to take steps towards this ideal society, and who ought to be the judge for certain progress? As someone who is an aspiring politician with a lot of vision on what an equitable society would look like, I’ve often struggled to come up with how this world can come to be. I believe that in introspect, a majority of people inherently share a vision for the world where there is no such thing as racism or discrimination based on being a member of a certain group, but while these flowery imaginations are easy to dream up, it the essentially a question of how that seems to stump any progress in a society where institutional systems are intricate inter webbed with one another. In this sense, I found our session with Representative Hurtado and our recent readings on Bayard Rustin’s “From Protest to Politics: The Future of the Civil Rights Movement,” and “New Left Project’s interview with Charles Mills” to be of particular interest in answering such questions.

Let’s start with the talk with Representative Hurtado. As someone who came from an immigrant background and has fought tooth and nail for the limited resources he had been given growing up, I was inspired by his story as I share similar backgrounds to him as an immigrant. I found his creation of the LatinxEd to be of particular interest to me given that I am currently working with an organization myself in bridging marginalized communities with access to higher education. However, where my opinions contrasted with that of Hurtado’s was the effectiveness of such organizations. I think both of us can agree that socially, having these agents in place is definitely better than not having one altogether, but as I have worked with my respective organization, I felt like even if we were hitting our mission statement of helping marginalized communities it is focusing on only a single aspect of the larger problem. In many times I have interacted with students from these platforms, college application advising often turns into empathetic conversations about racial stereotypes as a barrier, extraneous circumstances caused by financial strains, and just zero hope for social mobility given that their upbringing caused a perception that higher education was meant for those of affluent backgrounds. This perception really put into perspective Rustin’s article where he claimed, “When a Negro youth can reasonably foresee a future free of slums when the prospect of gainful employment is realistic, we will see motivation and self-help in abundant enough quantities.” This idea that certain communities are raised to believe in a certain limitation is the ideology that needs to shattered, rather than focusing on the few marginalized students who need advice on writing the 650-word Common App essays.

In this aspect, I am a strong believer that to really create change, we must focus our time and energy to work within the institutional systems. By definition, while I do agree that nonprofits and organizations like LatinxEd and StriveForCollege (the platform I am working with), are doing a phenomenal job in their field in helping these communities externally from the system, I see that burning down the status quo and rebuilding it from the ground-up is the only way to ensure a world that is equitable for all. This isn’t to say that I encourage militancy and anarchy and justify barbarism as a means to achieve a greater system, but I do think that if we are able to be more involved with our politics as marginalized groups, we can be a forceful agent of change that will dismantle the existing paradigm that is built to give an economic and political advantage to white Americans. Perhaps this belief in working within the system is the underlying purpose for my aspirations to join the political sphere, but for now, I hope to use this summer to be part of internal change. Hence, similar to the viewpoint of Charles Mills, it is definitely possible to take a leap towards our utopia, but we must take more action from within.

Unspoken Thoughts

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Whenever we travel to a foreign country, we often find ourselves lost and frustrated. The simplest questions like “Where are the restrooms?” and “Which way do I have to walk?” turn into complex linguistic equations where we end up spending minutes and minutes trying to formulate our thoughts into the native language. We know deep inside what we desire, but we just cannot express our voice because we struggle to find the right words. The struggle of this scenario is just a marginal glimpse into the voiceless community of Asian-American immigrants.

For the past thirteen years, I have been the American voice for my immigrant family. Whether it be signing rent contracts, negotiating car loans, or working out bureaucratic issues for my parents’ businesses, I’ve been the go-to individual to help translate their thoughts in Korean into English. I’ve never really seen this role as anything too special and in the past, it just felt natural for me to take on this responsibility. Yet my perception of my role as the voice for my family changed as COVID-19 quickly changed the public sentiment towards Asian-Americans.

With the blame of the coronavirus quickly being pointed to Asians, the level of hate towards the group quickly rose as well. With many news media reporting attacks on Asian elderly, blatant hate encounters for young Asian adults, and passive-aggressive looks out in public, my parents’ experiences were no different. Yet, when I asked my parents about their encounter, it wasn’t the remarks that were directed towards them that affected them the most, rather the suffocating feelings of not being able to respond to the remarks and voice their thoughts in the situation was the factor that upset my parents.

Taking this into perspective, I got an understanding of the cruciality of an individual’s voice in society. The ability to put our thoughts into words and be able to challenge perceptions is a process that everyone should be able to do. In the context of racial justice then, I want to be the voice with the Asian-American immigrants, and use my upbringing to express our community’s opinions and support on racial justice issues. While this entails a huge and seemingly lofty goal, it is my reason for being involved in this project—to learn more about issues and strategies as it pertains to racial justice and apply those theories into practice for those sharing immigrant backgrounds. Hence, this area isn’t just another academic project for me. No, this is about my personal background and an identity that I share with thousands of other Asian-American immigrants living in the United States. That is why I don’t mean it lightly when I say whatever it takes.