About a couple months ago in my second period Civics class, our teacher Mr. Frazier showed our class this Vice News documentary, which showcases a young reporter following Christopher Cantwell, one of the leaders of the white nationalist rallies that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Within the first couple of minutes I was in tears, scared and hurt by the derogatory terms, actions, and ideologies displayed by members of the rally, and throughout the rest of the school day I was — for lack of a better word — an emotional wreck. Watching the intimate interactions between the reporter and Cantwell, as well as the demonstrators and protestors, shook my whole conception of American citizens, and the country as a whole. Not only did the racial profiling, threats of violence, and aggressiveness of their language shock me, but the number of how many Americans strongly showed to support their belief in racism, sexism and homophobia made me question how many other US citizens share the same views, vocal or not.
As lucky as I am to have been born and raised in the Bay Area, it’s often hard to remember the bubble I live in. Since starting school on Monday, I’ve been so focused on homework, college applications and senior year to notice what was going on in the world around us. I’d scroll through Twitter at night, seeing posts about Charlottesville, but not taking the time to thoroughly read them, or watch the videos. Instead I’d merely thought about how sad that must be, and kept scrolling.
Throughout the video, I kept thinking to myself how different our lives would have been if the white nationalists had it their way. I’m half Chinese and half white and the scariest thought to me, was knowing these white nationalists would have never tolerated my mom and dad falling in love and getting married. I would have never been born, my brother would have never been born, and my friends and their diverse backgrounds would be gone too. It was then, I realized I didn’t have a choice to stay silent. I’ve always kept my social media pretty surface level for the most part, for I value my privacy and enjoy sharing my intimate moments with those in my inner circle. However, though I know posting on Facebook will not magically grant world peace, I now understand how utilizing this platform could potentially spark a conversation to invoke change in others.
I’d also like to thank Mr. McKeon, for when I came into third person was still obviously shook, and he allowed me to speak to my class about Charlottesville. Although we had a lesson plan that day, he insisted we “never let our academics get in the way of our education” and allowed to talk about a conversation so prevalent to our nation and world today. I’m only seventeen, but today in the classroom I was treated with the same respect as an educated adult, and was told not to apologize for the emotions I was feeling. I encourage you to share this video, as I was so lucky to have it shown to me by Mr. Frazier, for I know other teachers on campus have chosen not to show their students due to “fear of controversy and hurt feelings.” Where I respect my educators, I do not believe sheltering high school seniors from the world will benefit any of us in the long run.
You can watch about terrible events on the news, witness car crashes, and see a news reporter standing in front of a crime scene, but often we forget these terrible events happen to real people because of real people. The anger these white nationalists feel is real. The bravery the protesters display is real. The fear the reporter felt while maintaining to keep her composure is real. The events that happened were real. However, we will not let these neo-Nazis/white supremacists win in their bigotry and hate. As long as the conversation continues, our voices will remain resilient.