2016 has been trying in more ways we could even imagine.
From hearing news reports of police brutality, protests, and hate crimes around the world in addition to the stressors of our everyday lives as college students and young adults, leading up to FACT, this week is a strong reminder that this year has been a time of high stress and tribulations.
There has been a flash of intense, emotional responses, pointing fingers, and otherizing in the past 48 hours. The overwhelming noise of conflicting views and polarizing opinions is starting to drown out other voices; there's a cold, frightening distance that we’ve been forced to recognize that we hoped wasn't there before. People are showing their “true colors”, and walls are built between people of differing opinions. This year has been filled with a lot of heartbreak.
But distancing ourselves from each other won't solve the issue. Change begins with empathy, patience, and respect, even if we might not always agree. However, we encourage you to take the time to heal for your own mental health; at the end of the day, we must strive for self-preservation without annihilation.
After this year’s recent events, we call upon you to find safety in a “brave space” - a space where we are called not only to respect each other’s opinions, but be brave in sharing our own opinions; a space where we choose to listen to differing opinions rather than to dismiss and walk away. We stress the importance of brave spaces because how can we continue to be inclusive when we turn away and shut out those who have different beliefs? There is power in diversity; thus, there is value in being inclusive.
We strive for inclusivity without intentional harm on others; if offense or harm results from the inclusion of other voices, that is the time in which both sides need to take a step back and understand the reasons behind the conflict. It is a fine line to tiptoe around, but how can we expect to continue with progress if we do not attempt to listen or have dialogue with others? Everyone has faced challenges; people are the result of their experiences and exposures. A part of maturing is the process of unlearning what has been learned, and that is a very confusing and painful process. Beginning to understand why people are hurt, confused, or frustrated is the first step we need to take in reuniting.
“I’ve heard of some college campuses where they don’t want to have a guest speaker who is too conservative, or they don’t want to read a book if it had language that is offensive to African Americans or somehow sends a demeaning signal towards women,” Obama said Monday while speaking at a town hall meeting at North High School in Des Moines. “I’ve got to tell you, I don’t agree with that either -- that you when you become students at colleges, you have to be coddled and protected from different points of view. Anybody who comes to speak to you and you disagree with, you should have an argument with them, but you shouldn’t silence them by saying you can’t come because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say.” (Barack Obama, Washington Post 2015)
This year we are now forced to see things in a way that some of us didn’t expect to, but at least now that we know, we can prepare ourselves for what comes ahead by working through solidarity, not division. That being said, the 24th annual FACT conference could not come at a better time.
“This year's theme is FUSE: For Us & Everyone. It is inclusive of those beyond Filipinos and Filipino-Americans and leading everyone toward a greater sense of community. FACT 2016 aims to inspire delegates to take the initiative to strengthen bonds within and outside their own communities. We can accomplish so much more if everyone stands together, supports each other, and moves forward as one community to address the issues we all face."
Yes, the FUSE theme means something entirely different now, so let's go into this FACT with open minds and open hearts so we can begin the healing the divisiveness of our nation and strive to embody both the Filipino-ness and American-ness of our hybrid identities.
To conclude, we encourage you to:
1) Give yourself the self care you need.
You are a human first and advocating for yourself is always of the highest priority and when you are ready...
2) Speak up for others and for yourself.
Nowadays, millennials are given a bad rap even by our fellow millennials.
“How can a Facebook status spread awareness?”
“How can your tweet help people in XXX country??”
Trust us, your voices do not go unheard. They are shared and seen by multiple people within your group, whether it be on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter; you name it. Each post is an opportunity for you to open dialogue. While this may not happen every time, it’s still one more opportunity that wasn’t there before.
3) Know that you do not stand alone.
With everything going on in the past 48 hours, it is important for us to stand together and to understand each other as individuals. Now, when we Filipino Americans come together this weekend, let us understand each other as the complex individuals we are and avoid condensing the essence of our being to the mere labels we may ascribe to or that others associate us as. Despite our differences, we still are able to come together at this wonderful event and celebrate our oneness and our diversity. Let us remember that even after the conference is over.
No Coast. Midwest. MAFA. We’ll survive this test.
We cannot approach the future with the perspective of fighting a monolith of hate or “others” that are ignorant or “just don’t get it” Rather, we should be seeking to calm the dissonance by listening, understanding, respecting, and empowering one another as we now work together to move forward. We cannot fight hate with hate; we need to create a space for healing. Remember kindness, remember love, and remember that we are ALL members of a greater community. Only then will we be able to hit the ground running continue to push for equality for all here living in America. Only then will we truly be able to convince people to love, appreciate, and respect the diversity of our beautiful community.