The artificial construction of race is a spectrum, parallel to the scale of oppression, where, in both the United States and Berkeley High School (BHS), Asian Americans have historically fallen into a marginalized gray area between privilege and maltreatment. In an age where the fight for social justice and equity among races has slowly pushed minorities to the forefront of social discussion, the last thing we need to focus on is who’s had it the worst. The conversation surrounding acknowledgement of racism in the BHS community needs to support students of all races.
At BHS, the politically and socially active students are eager to participate in discussion concerning racial injustice that occurs both inside and outside the walls of campus. These conversations typically end with the same general consensus: every individual, despite concern of identity, is limited in perspective by their own biases drawn from personal experience. Therefore, in their eyes, they are incapable of analyzing and comprehending the experiences of those unlike themselves.
In recent years, there’s been an observable shift in these conversations, moving from sharing experiences to creating a social ranking system. An attempt to see who has suffered the most at the hands of bigotry.
So why does this happen? Creating a social hierarchy allows us to better digest and comprehend human complexities. In this case, oppression has caused minorities to become dependent on a ranking in order to extort identity, something that’s been stripped away through years of vanquishing culture. This inherently dismisses and diminishes individual experience, creating further division and tension between minority groups.
One of the biggest problems we face as a society today is fear of not being “woke” enough when it comes to the social issues surrounding ourselves and our communities. Nobody wants to appear ignorant. Nobody wants to get canceled. As a result of this oppression hierarchy, Asian American students have been forced to grapple with the fear and insecurity of somehow dampening the hardships of other minority groups simply by voicing our own.
This mindset is false and incredibly harmful to the community at large. Students don’t need to understand all minority experiences in order to speak about their feelings on their own experiences. In fact, a thoughtful and wider range of input could only make our community more progressive, in terms of overcoming our limits in perspective. Students should be able to speak without fear of repercussions.
The BHS community must understand that oppression, no matter the shape or form is unacceptable. Compassion and sincerity are what’s going to push the needle forward in combating racism. This can be accomplished through change in both classroom and social environments.
As with all concepts that are new to us, we must first be open and honest with ourselves about our lack of understanding. We must remain humble in order to promote open-mindedness, otherwise we won’t be able to grow. In this case, students at BHS and people across the nation should be introduced to the idea of the Oppression Olympics and the harmful effects they have on everyone. We should have a fundamental understanding of what they are, where they came from, and why they exist in order to understand why they’re bad.
We must also find comfort in never being able to fully align ourselves with the definition of “woke.” This is what’s blocked us from becoming truly progressive in America, and especially Berkeley. Being troubled by the idea that we’ll never be able to fully conceptualize each other’s experiences will never accomplish anything productive. We must recognize that we are able to combat this obstacle through the inclusion of more perspectives. A wide range of perspectives is the only thing that will allow us to make decisions most justified and appropriate for each challenge we face regarding racism in America.
Finally, in order to achieve social justice and equality for all, we can’t be so unforgiving and hostile towards those who think differently from us. Hatred will never be abolished through actions based in hatred. We need to work to be more productive in terms of how we tackle racism and prioritize what’s important to the people who are suffering because of it.
As a community at BHS, and as a society as a whole, we need to invest our thoughts in abolishing injustices, rather than ranking them for sake of our own understanding. The suffering of people will never be lessened by getting caught in the systems designed to inflict suffering. If we want to defend civil liberties, we need to defend civil liberties for all.