That dream requires work, liberation, and determination, but I am afraid.I remember sitting in a history class of thirty students and being the only one with skin darker than the beige walls that I hid against. I had hoped that if I sat far enough in the back, the attention wouldn’t turn to me whenever there was a mention of slavery or segregation. I was wrong.
The teacher drew a graph on the board and explained that blacks were the only group in America that had never reached the standard set by the original white settlers, in educational, economic, and sociopolitical terms. In that moment, I just wanted to be a statistic. I wanted to fit the mold of what most people believe African Americans are -- uneducated, uncooperative, and unworthy of the opportunity to realize the American dream.
I am scared of becoming a Medgar, a Malcolm, a Martin, or any of the other countless martyrs who sacrificed physical existence for a dream that seems unattainable -- equality. I am scared of breaking under the pressure of oppression. I am scared of being attacked and brutalized. I am scared that my skin is not thick enough to handle tears, and my eyes are not strong enough to hold back tears. Microaggressions become major aggression, and that violence can easily cause clinical depression.Existing in a state of double consciousness is stressful; I never know when it is and ain’t appropriate to use colloquialisms. I am realizing that ignorance really is bliss. I’d rather live in the fairytale land that I was temporarily sheltered in as a child, a world without racism, without prejudice, without a need for activism. Even as I write these words, I am overwhelmed with emotions that I have been taught to hide, but I recognize that there is beauty in vulnerability and inspiration in heartache. Two years ago, my eyes were opened to how cruel this world can truly be to people who don’t fit the mold of normal. Then, I understood. That normal feeling that I desired was found in the position of a bystander. I refuse to take the side of the oppressor and act oblivious to issues of injustice. I will speak out, not because claiming the title of “social activist” has become popular, but because it is my moral obligation. Social activism is more than a side hustle, or a thing that we should do after incidents of police brutality.
-- Fong Tran
Sign up for The Pavlovic Today Newsletter featuring news, scoops, exclusive interviews and expert analysis