The Light in This Country That We Call Great
"I can't believe that injustices like these still happen," my friend Ray said in a bewildered voice. I was one of eighteen students attending Telluride Summer Institute, living communally and taking classes at the University of Michigan. Our reading on patient dumping was from County: Life, Death and Politics at Chicago's Public Hospital by David Ansell in which he described a gruesome injustice: an uninsured African American woman was forced out of an emergency room while she was delivering a child. Each of us was horrified by the insurance system and that individual doctors could allow suffering of this magnitude to occur. I was confused about what to call these injustices, but our professors gave it a name: systemic racism.
As a woman of color growing up in Queens and attending school in Brooklyn, I assumed I was not naive. "Stop and Frisk," lack of police protection, and wrongful accusations are occurrences I have witnessed and continue to witness. But when systemic racism and injustice entered my vocabulary, I was dumbfounded. I had not understood that these individual moments of racism were part of a larger structure of policies established against a group of people.
What could I do? Would I become a victim of these policies and forces? I looked at the walls of my room as tears streaked my face, thoughts racing around my head. I was strong on the outside, but inwardly I felt defenseless.
On the second to last night in the dorms, my group of friends sat down to reflect on what we had struggled with that summer. In that conversation, I came to see that the turmoil that I had experienced was a shared one. We collectively decided to push back against the waves of systemic racism, restrictions and limitations, because we could not let them carry us away. My faith in myself, my Caribbean outlook, and my belief in society returned, but with less naivety. I was now aware of the magnitude of the challenge. Yet I am determined to make a difference, grow stronger, and become more educated. I take comfort knowing that when I get into college there will be more people with like minds, with whom I can change the world one small step at a time.
My devotion to justice may start small, by simply standing up for a friend or volunteering, but it is my vision to have it blossom into something bigger. To become a "Watcher of the Sky," I must first know that the sky represents the next generation. To set a clear line of sight to the stars I shall be the instrument that clears the path, and the looking glass for the telescope. The youth are the stars, and I wish to help lead the way to seeing their true brilliance by always carrying justice with me in my heart and mind. We watch the stars for they are the future, and there is no greater joy than ensuring that the future is bright.