By Anahita Maleknia '21
I have been thinking about the current events, the tough times we are dealing with today. I just wanted to speak on what I have learned when it comes to making our community a more understanding and knowledgeable place when it comes to racism. Everyone has their right to their own opinion on what is happening, but I feel that in our world today, we must be willing to listen to a diversity of opinions. We must facilitate differing trains of thought because when we do this, we all gain.
The year is 2020. The human race has embarked on journeys that our founding fathers never deemed possible. From creating a hand-held device that is more powerful than many computers, to having self-driving cars, humanity has come a long way. However, how is it that we cannot seem to figure out that racism is a social construct? How is it so hard for us to realize that unity trumps division, love triumphs over evil, and character comes before color?
I am sure we are all aware of the recent tragedies that have occurred across this nation. The heartbreaking murder of George Floyd, the unexplainable death of Breonna Taylor, and the excruciating details from the detainment of Elijah McClain are just a few that come to mind. I will not go into the details now, because it truly pains me to read them again, but I hope we can all agree that we can do better. Humanity can do better. America can do better. We are the best country in the world, but we must be willing to improve. Complacency has no place in the American spirit.
I remember in the 8th grade, I focused my 8-Lead project on racism. Many parents would walk by and ask me to elaborate on my project. Throughout many of the discussions that I had, I would always point out that we aren’t born to be racist, we are taught. Of course, as any parent does, they would want more information. My mom especially! They would ask how I related to this? Did I have proof? Am I discriminated against? And the list goes on and on. My answer would always be the same. Yes, with my Iranian American heritage, I have experienced discrimination, I have been treated differently, but the discrimination I face is nothing compared to the prejudices I see and hear.
"We have the power to educate those around us. Silence is no longer an option."
In order to see change, I wanted to pop the bubble that so many of us live in on a daily basis. We tend to get so caught up in our daily lives, that we forget there are people in the United States who do not have clean water. There are children in the United States that do not eat on the weekends because school is not in session. There are families in the United States that see their race as a hindrance to succeed in a country that was established on the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Now, do not get me wrong, this country is still the breeding ground for the American Dream. I know this because I am living proof. My family’s life journey will have to be told during another speech, but their story is just one of many that show America is the land of opportunity. We are all God’s creation who have been put here to achieve greatness, to lift each other up, and to make sure we make the world a better place to live in, one day, one year, one century at a time.
One story I would like to share is from when I was in the second grade. While working on writing this speech, my mom reminded me of an innocent story that happened over ten years ago. She described to me how I had had a crush on a boy, and one of his friends came up to me and said, “You know why he can’t like you back right? It’s because your family is Muslim.” I came home, obviously hurt by the comments, but not truly understanding the bigger picture of what these words really meant. I remember my mom then elaborating that this idea was not created by the boy himself. It was most likely something he had heard at home or seen on TV. These two places are where many of the seeds are planted. In order for there to be change, we must not condone these behaviors. We cannot make excuses for this behavior anymore. We cannot say things such as, "It’s how they grew up” or “They won’t change” or even, “It’s just locker-room banter talk”. This “locker-room banter talk” has no place in our world today. We have the power to educate those around us. Silence is no longer an option.
I wish I had spoken up when I was in Middle School and a freshman in high school. As many of us tend to be, I would be scared thinking that my peers around me would look at me differently and wouldn’t be friends with me if I did challenge some of their views. But there comes a time when you have to realize that if the people around you are truly your friends, they will listen to what you have to say, respect what you have to say, and give you their input. Disagreeing with someone does not mean you have to hate them. Loving someone does not mean you have to agree with everything they say. Just ask my Dad, I love him to death, but our ideas of fashion are on two completely different spectrums! But all jokes aside, this small action makes a profound impact. Discussions lead to progress.
"It’s easy to not grasp the significance of an issue when you are not the target of hateful acts and comments, but our job, as a community, and as citizens of the world, is to solve an issue that is as simple and as straightforward as they come. This issue, of course, is equality."
Our world today does not like to think critically. If we watch two different channels on TV, it’s like we are living in two completely different worlds. This is why it is vital for us to know our facts, learn about our history, and think critically about the world that we live in. Facebook is great for baby pictures, but I have to say, click-bait is not great for the world. We, as the Randolph community, need to do a better job of holding those around us accountable for their words and actions. When it comes to seeing something that is wrong, we must speak up. We should not speak up by starting an argument, but rather we should speak up by starting a civilized discussion. By understanding all points of view, theirs as well as our own. If we do that, then both parties gain.
As I have stated before, we need to understand that Randolph is a bubble. Not everyone is as lucky enough to go to a school where everyone is cared for. Not everyone is as lucky enough to have people like Pierre, Jeremy , Mrs. Hillinck, and so many others smile at us every morning. Not everyone is as lucky enough to feel safe at a school, to be able to drive to school, to have their own rooms, to live in safe neighborhoods. We are truly blessed. With our blessings, we can help others. We can give back to the community, raise awareness for what is going on in the world, and educate others. We can no longer tolerate racism. We can no longer tolerate bigotry. We can no longer tolerate wrong. It’s easy to not grasp the significance of an issue when you are not the target of hateful acts and comments, but our job, as a community, and as citizens of the world, is to solve an issue that is as simple and as straightforward as they come. This issue, of course, is equality.
Let’s begin to speak up for others, let’s keep signing petitions, educating others, and attending peaceful protests to raise awareness for problems that we can and must fix in our society. If you feel like you still need to be educated, I challenge you to read one book about anti-racism. I challenge you to have that uncomfortable discussion with your peers or a family member, because when we get out of our comfort zone, that is when we truly succeed. We are capable of fixing these issues, but it all starts at home. It starts with educating a classmate or a friend. It starts by having that one discussion that may change both people’s lives forever. From experience, the feeling of not doing something will always gnaw at you forever, but when we do, regret can never seep in. It is never too late to start. I pray that we can all start towards a better future today. It will take each and every one of us, but I know that we can do it. I have seen the remarkable things we can do when we come together, and I look forward to the day when the color of a person's skin, or their religion, sexual orientation, or gender are no longer concerns. I look forward to working with all of you to help make this our "new normal".