Reality Check

I can’t help but notice the inner turmoil of minorities that are trying to make a difference in their community.  After becoming more aware of the world around me, all the oppression, inequality in the society, and the acts of inhumanity that have been consuming the media channels for several months now, I’m beginning to notice the layers of meanings behind each aggression, realizing that every act of injustice or oppression is an insult to the rest of humanity as well.

Even when the nation celebrates holidays such as the “MLK” day, I saw the change in how I viewed the day and the underlining meaning of what it meant to celebrate this day.  When I left for winter break last week, I felt like there was an emerging battle ahead for us all; there had been protests for Black Lives Matter all throughout the country, Islamophobia was permeating the news, and acts of hatred lined the newspaper stands.  And so when Martin Luther King Day rolled around, hearing all these talks of so-called equality and how we have achieved it as a nation, I couldn’t help but feel disappointment in the truth of the matter because it still feels like we are still fighting for equality like we did fifty years ago when Dr. King was alive.  What are we fighting for? Exactly the same things: freedom, liberty, pursuit of happiness… But also those simple, basic human qualities that everyone seeks: security, the ability to love, and to be safe.

America- “the home of the free and the brave” is heavily rooted in the dark truth of oppression.  It’s very interesting how my views on America have changed over the last few year, especially after coming to college.  I use to be a sheltered, first generation Asian immigrant and for my family and me, the United States of America was a place of equality, where we had a chance at bettering our lives.  We believed full heartedly that if we worked hard, and followed all the rule, one day, we would surely be rewarded.  But as time goes by, I saw the snickering and the starring my father got when I use to go to his day job as a janitor.  I heard the comments made by my mother’s co-workers about how she dressed and what she ate. And that hurt.  What hurt more was the fact that both my parents felt like their only choice was to keep their head down and avoid any type of conflict.  Later on down the road, I learned that one of the main ways of dealing with oppression is avoidance.  The victims feel so powerless that they feel like there are no options except for going out of their way to deliberately stay away from any type of potential oppression.

Reflecting on my parent’s experiences causes me to wonder where we, as a nation will be in ten, fifty, or even one hundred years.  And my conclusion is, these same problems and issues will continue to be apparent because there is a lack of admitting that oppression exists and acknowledgment to try and confront it.



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There are some virtues of life that I always try to practice.  I often find myself focusing more on increasing my patience or self-control.  This past weekend, I’ve revisited a virtue that I have noticed myself not paying attention to: Empathy.

I practice it, or at least I think so.  When someone shares a very tragic story, I try my best to listen and “feel” what they are feeling.  When I see a less fortunate person, I try my best to acknowledge their presence, their struggles, and if I can help them at that present moment, by all means I will give up some time and try to understand their difficult circumstances.

But in my experience with empathy, I’ve learned that there’s one important factor that I’ve been ignoring.  Often times, empathy is regarded as one of the traits that should be practiced because it is hard to accomplish and most of all, difficult to really measure whether or not someone really understands the other person’s experiences.  Already, sharing one’s emotions and thoughts about a particularly sensitive experience places the speaker in a very vulnerable position.  Sharing and taking down barriers takes courage, time, and the ability to make peace with the possibility or getting shunned or misunderstood.

With that said, the ones practicing empathy need to do more than just listen and tell the individual that they understand.  First, the harsh truth is these personal, in-depth stories of people’s lives are indeed hard to understand.  For one, all the experiences are unique and to simply say “we understand,” will not fix anything or make things easier.  If we were to explore this in subject of being an ally, an example would be that, I as an immigrant Asian will never truly understand what it is like to be an African American who was born and raised in American.  Or a heterosexual individual may never have that same experience of facing oppression such as the queer community.  The list goes on and on.

Even though this issue may be a difficult problem to overcome, individuals should continue to be proactive in empathizing with others, no matter how many differences are established.  I believe that the privileged have the responsibility of hearing the experiences of the oppressed, and even if they don’t understand or been through a single component of the oppressed, the main purpose is to listen, acknowledge, and share these experiences with those who has not been exposed yet.  Every personal stories matter, so when a person embraces bravery to share his or her thoughts and feelings, empathize by being honest with yourself and with them on their experiences.


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Halloween: Far from the Meaning

Halloween has always been a confusing topic for me.  For one, I have never heard of this event until I came to the United States and for the first few years, my conservative Christian relatives restricted any kind of participation in trick or treating, wearing any types of costumes, or even use the word Halloween.  In the Day Care where my mother works, Halloween is prohibited and one week before Halloween, parents are given a long paper explaining why this celebration is wicked and evil.  For my childhood perspective, all I understood of Halloween was people dressed up in costumes of their choice and at night, they go around to collect candy.  In my teenage years, I was finally granted the freedom to go out with my friends and participate but since I spent too many years in what seemed like captivity, I couldn’t get into the “spirit” of Halloween as much as my friends.

Another few years have passed since that time, it happens to be October, and I’m still wondering what Halloween actually stands for.  After spending some time researching about how Halloween was started and what it actually meant for, I was surprised.  Its purpose is to celebrate those who have passed and dedicate time into honoring the dead.  There were also abundance of information on how different religion groups interpret Halloween because it is associated to another celebration or because of their viewpoint of supernatural phenomenons.  It was interesting to learn that many Christian Protestant groups do acknowledge Halloween and don’t shun its practices.

So, now that I have explored what my personal experiences of Halloween was and the history of it too, I realized that, in my case, Halloween is just another evidence of difference in people’s perceptions, upbringings, and morals.  It’s another topic for people to fight over, debate about, and determine whether it is worth it for that individual to celebrate.  It’s very hard though, because Halloween has transformed, throughout the years, into this expensive, at times over the top, highly-advertised day where it has one of the highest crime rates in the whole year, the candy consumption is through the roof, and people actually justify some vice behavior with the fact that it is Halloween.

Don’t get me wrong, Halloween is fun.  It’s just interesting how Halloween is one of those subject that can be perceived in so many ways yet some communities insist their view is the correct one which should reign all other perspectives.  If we all take a few step back, educate ourselves first then act accordingly to what we, as individuals believe in, then there will be less confusions on who to follow and what to associate yourself with.  Knowing what something stands for and dissecting why things are the way they are can be one of the most important tools in determining your decisions on a unstable topic.




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Defined by Definers

Every week, I am in charge of the MOSAIC E-Digest, and as a “personal” touch, I try to embed a quote that relates to social justice or that comments on the current system of how society runs.  This week, one of my colleagues helped me find a quote , which was:

“Definitions belong to the definer, not the defined.” – Toni Morrison

When I read this quote, I was immediately placed into my thinking mode where I was trying to deconstruct it and find the meaning of this simple, yet powerful statement.  One thing that has really stood out for me during my stay in MOSAIC is that whenever a conversation leads to more of a debate, I’ve learned that personal definitions of a term, is one of the most important premise on which their argument is made.  “What do you mean by that?” or “How do you define _____” is a very common question that can be heard in these conversations.  And they are good questions to ask too.  Not everyone has the same definitions of things and it’s better to declare those differences before engaging in a discussion where many conflicting view points may be present.

To me, this statement means that everything we experience is to each their own, and the meaning changes depending on the person’s experience with that concept, idea, or a thing.  It reminds us the way we conceive the world around us differs from person to person.  Factors such as the individual’s upbringing, economical status, and personality clashes all together that affect how we formulate the meaning of our past, present, and future.  In a sense, each person has the ability and the power to define what is in front of them, and any interpretation is correct because their own experience is used to justify the meaning.  In these times, it’s really important to keep in mind that individuals all have different perceptions and it’s acceptable to disagree.


Book Banning

There are a lot of books out there.  Ever since the beginning of civilization, expression of oneself through language has existed whether it being in a form of pictures, signs, or markings.  Being a Diversity Advocate Intern taught me that one of the best ways to learn about unfamiliar cultures is to dive into the world of literature and books where I can read the stories of oppression and the societal systems in which the subordinate groups are trapped in. I enjoy reading autobiographical pieces more because often, the writer depicts raw and intense events of his or her life that they experienced firsthand.  And for a person like me who still needs to be educated in many areas that is all I can ask for.  But as I submerged myself in books that vividly portrayed and explored lines of oppression and barriers within communities, I’ve noticed that some of these books are banned from schools across the nation.

I have some knowledge of the books that were banned, but I decided to do a little bit of research and figure out how this act of book burning may be detrimental to our society.

The Harry Potter series and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings are two of the title that automatically pops up when I think of book burning.  Harry Potter is often banned by religious affiliation groups, who think the story of a young wizard and his magical world might hinder the traditional practices of the religion and because their justification is magic is bad, thus one must not engage in the stories.  Being raised in a Christian background, I was told the same thing by, not my parents, but by my conservative relatives who restricted any contact with the books or the movies.  In states like Kansas, the book is banned to the  “vulgar language, sexual explicitness, and violent imagery that is gratuitously employed.”

The practice of banning book as been a way of “protecting” potential readers of being exposed to another unknown world.  But the dangers of not being able to read these works of literature may be even more harmful.  When I think of this topic, I am reminded of a Ted talk by Chimamanda Adichie, a novelist, who shared her idea of how a “single story” that describes a specific group of people may send the rest of the society the wrong idea of how the life of certain demographic may look like.  In her talk, she explains that when we hear a story of an individual from a place we are not familiar about, we tend to have an idea that all individuals from that walk of life shares the exact same experience or fate.  To Adichie, that is dangerous because a single story does not justify the lives of others and it builds ignorance.

I think this notion is relevant to the practices of book banning or burning because by eliminating books, those who seek knowledge are turned down, those were going to have an initial chance of exploring the other culture are now restricted, and as a whole, the prohibition of books means we have lost a great deal opportunity to challenge our views about the world we live in.  Yes, some of these pieces of literature may make us uncomfortable to a point where we may feel necessary to put the book down and move on to something else, but in order to see things as they are and to fully understand the reasons behind the reality, there needs to be a time of vulnerability, where our only option is to listen, to interact, and sympathize with the experience(s) we are reading about.

The Ted talk of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie can be found here:


Generation Y

Can’t communicate well, narcissistic, addicts of technology. Disappointments.  That is primarily the description I get when the subject of Generation Y comes up in conversations.

How do I feel about this?

Before exploring this statement, we must first define what Generation Y is.  This generation of individuals are also known as the Millennials and are categorized as people who were born from early 1980’s to the early 2000’s.  Individuals of this generation grew up with an idea that with hard work and perseverance, they can achieve all their dreams in all areas of life. Compared to the past generations, Generation Y individuals tend to value individualism vs. group effort, liberal worldviews instead of conservative, and fulfillment of their ideal goals over security and consistency.  One additional aspect of being a Gen Y is that we grew up with technology advancement; this changed how we communicate and it is probably because of this fact that other age groups tend to label us for our lack of communication.

While researching this topic, there were many articles that I stumbled on and most of them were about how Gen Y people tend to live in their own surreal world with unrealistic dreams and nonsense.  Some articles talked about the dangers of hiring Gen Y’s in the workplace and how to deal with them.  A few articles highlighted the causes of how and why these stereotypes were formed, followed by why they are true.  And most articles had research to conveniently prove their analysis.

So how do I feel about this?

I can only speak from my life experience and the day to day living with my peers.  First of all, I must admit that some of these statements are true.  For one, individualism or the act of differentiating oneself is a very prominent feature in my peers and myself.  Why is that?  While one may argue that the cause of this is due to our upbringing of I-can-achieve-anything attitude, do notice that the world’s population has skyrocketed and the competition for education, jobs, and resources has increased. So the way I see it is with the upbringing of a self-reassuring attitude and the realities of the world, the only thing we see is for us to make ourselves stand out or being one of a kind.

Another big argument that I consistently hear is the idea that we do not know how to communicate and have meaningful relationships because Gen Y grew up with advances in technology, media, and advertisements.  Yes, if there was a huge problem that I see in my peers and at times myself is that we are glued to our cell phones, computer screen, flat screen T.Vs, etc.  The list goes on and on.  But regarding this issue of becoming addicts of technology, I truly believe that slowly but surely, we are recognizing the impact that devices have on our social lives.

In a larger context, if there was just one problem I have with this Gen Y generalization, it is the fact this IS a generalization, that covers more than 50% of the world’s current population.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that every human being has their own personal story and unique experiences.  In a social justice standpoint, categorizing an entire generation of individuals as these labels destroys, disencourages, and prevents individuals from being aware of themselves and allows them to start labeling each others.  Societal labels are detrimental because they eliminate a chance or an opportunity of interaction, which is the reason why there’s still racial wars being fought, tension between extremist groups, and overall misunderstandings of cultures that may seem foreign to us.