Home is Where the Heart is

We all want to make change. We’re taught from a young age that whatever our purpose in life, it must impact the world in some way…and automatically, we think of some way to make a HUGE change. We think…how do we become Martin Luther King Jr.? How do we become Malala? How do we become [insert revolutionary activist/famous person here]? And yes, the reason that they are so well recognized is because they worked OUTSIDE the system. They worked OUTSIDE of the rules and OUTSIDE of the institutions.

But, I want you to think about how many people, gone unrecognized, worked INSIDE of these institutions to allow individuals to even open up to this outside change. In order to allow people to support a cause, they must be comfortable with it, and the people who worked inside of these institutions were the pioneers in the field of taking white privilege down a notch.

One example that immediately comes to mind is the work of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson, who we may now recognize from the film Hidden Figures, but had I asked you before 2016, you probably wouldn’t even know who these people were.

These three women worked inside the system to demonstrate that there is room for BIPOC individuals to be a part of the space program and make a remarkable impact on NASA’s greatest missions. They demonstrated that BIPOC people are no less than their white counterparts, and they were some of the premier pioneers for paving the way for equality at NASA.

I think we need to come to terms with not having our name out there but still making the change necessary for our world to thrive. And, that starts with working inside the institution. Start where you are and make the most change you can there. You’re probably going to impact the people closest to you and your community will be forever grateful.

We can’t all be Martin Luther King Jr. or Malala and yes, we’ll be a hidden figure to most of the world, but why does that matter when we’re all fighting for the same thing? Start from within the system and make the change that we need to eradicate racial injustices in our world. No need to travel the world…just start in your backyard. Make the change there. Be the pioneer.

I believe that’s where it starts…Home is really where the heart is.

Swetha Rajagopal is a second-year student from Chandler, Arizona, who intends to double major in Biology and Global Health. She is passionate about delving into the issues of racial injustice present within the areas of housing, education, and healthcare. At Duke, Swetha is a DSG Senator on the Durham and Community Affairs Committee, and she was previously a Kenan Ethics in Place Fellow, in which she worked to expand access to healthcare for undocumented immigrants in Arizona.

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