Lately, I’ve been really thinking about what it means to live: as I am, who I am, in this world and in this country. Recently, the nation has been hit with events that confirm that our system, our country’s means of governance, is broken. As I inch closer to becoming a working adult in this country, I ask myself what it means to be a citizen. I am not asking whether or not I will find a job, or what it is that is my “dream job,” or how much money I want to make upon leaving my very expensive education. I want to know, while becoming a taxpaying adult who drives civic participation, what it means to be a citizen when I feel like the country I have spent my entire life in has not and cannot serve me. I am asking, as a participant of this society, what my government can offer my fellow citizens and me.
I am cynical not because of some internal, personal reason. I am upset for the very same reason we see people on the streets protesting and chanting, “I can’t breathe,” and “hands up, don’t shoot.” I will not accept that innocent people can be subjected to violence because of prejudice—that people are still blinded by the very American systems of oppression that have justified the policing and marginalization of Black Americans for centuries. I am also saddened by the state of our education system, which has never taught me the difference between justice and injustice and what it means to be a person of color in America. I am upset, primarily, that my education did not push me to learn how to be an informed citizen. Instead of learning how to become a civic actor who understands the ins and outs of the world and its rights and wrong, I spent over 15 years of my life preparing to appear good enough to get into college.
Now, at the end of my college career, I am only beginning to understand what it means to be an American and the challenges and struggles it means to claim that political role. I know that my dollar is as important as my vote in a country that praises the neoliberal regime and I refuse to contribute monetarily to corporations that feed the very oppressive systems that convict people on the knee-jerk reactions of prejudiced men. More and more, I find myself angry, then on the verge of tears for people I have never met. Sometimes, I become emotional over images that spark not even a hint of interest in my peers. Here, I find myself feeling isolated and hopeless by the way I, along with the people closest to me, have been socially conditioned to believe the “truths” told on national stage.
As the next week comes to an end, I know that my time to be a part of the greater public is coming near. I know that I can passively go on, neutral to the problems I watch unfold on my newsfeed by scrolling through them too fast to feel my heart ache. Even though I struggle to find my own place in activism and my way of engaging the community, I know I need to say something. This is my first step. As for after the end of next week, I guess we have all yet to see.