I was recently tasked with writing a This I Believe style piece for one of my graduate school classes. I found it relevant to share as it we deeply personal and reflective for me and I wanted to share.
I will never forget where I was or how I felt on September 11th, 2001. I was in 8th grade in Albany, New York. I had recently started at a new school and was in the process of making friends and learning my way around. It was Tuesday morning and I was in Spanish class when the teacher paused with concern. I’ll never forget how somber the mood turned when we began to listen to the coverage of the events unfolding not all that far from where we were. I remember as the day went on, I experienced a range of emotions- I was sad, confused, scared, angry all at once. I’ll never forget what that feeling was like; knowing my life was going to be impacted- tremendously and forever but unsure how.
September 11th proved to be a crossroads and an opportunity for our nation to shape its future.
On August 9th, 2014 I remember lying in bed watching television. The news was covering the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Missouri shot by a police officer and the same feelings began to manifest deep within. I knew my life was going to change- and dramatically so, I just didn’t know how.
Racism and systemic oppression in the United States have been problematic in the United States since the days of what some call the nation’s original sin, slavery. Since then, our country has constructed a hierarchal class system derived from hue of skin that has permeated throughout countless aspects of everyday life and has spanned generations from the arrival of early settlers through today.
On August 9th, it reared its ugly head.
Since then, we have seen a tragic polarization of socio-political beliefs that have brought forth ugly divisions previously lurking in the shadows; a polarization that has personally led me to find disheartening fissures even among my own family and friends.
Calls for equal treatment have been manipulated into “anti-cop” rhetoric. Demands for justice have been twisted into charges of hypersensitivity. Acknowledgement of a mantra, #BlackLivesMatter has been stripped of its meaning and intent and rebranded into #AllLivesMatter- an attempt to make a Movement more palatable while silencing members of our society that have been rendered voiceless from the beginning.
This inability to reconcile with our nations shortcomings and history has in just over a year, torn our social and moral fiber asunder. This I believe will prove to be the greatest challenge of our generation.
On August 9th, opportunity presented itself.
No success has been appreciated without adversity. No victory celebrated without threat or challenge and we have reached a crossroads yet again. Do we wish to reconcile with our past and present to shape our future? Or do we wish to turn a blind eye to our brothers and sisters that have yet been granted the opportunity to reach full citizenship?
I have dedicated a large portion of the past year protesting, reflecting, writing and devising ways in which I think our nation can improve. It has led me to great people that I otherwise would have never had met and it has forced me to reconcile with my own beliefs and levels of comfort within my own being.
On August 9th, I reached a crossroads and chose the path I believe will allow me to leave this world a better place than how I found it. It is my belief that our nation will rise up out of the turmoil, division and ashes to rebirth itself into the great nation we purport to be. At this critical juncture, I believe that we must choose the path for better, the one that will shape our future to be the best that it can. This I believe.