I decided to do this post in honor of the recent happenings at Bucknell with regards to racism and discrimination.
Growing up, I fervently believed that an individual’s growth occurs during the pursuement of reaching and attaining one’s goals. The most recent example that I have of this would be getting into Bucknell University . I participated in the toughest classes in my high school and an assortment of various extracurriculars in order to get into a top tier college. Through reaching and attaining this goal, I found that I had grown extensively as a person and as a leader. However, during the last couple years, I have found out that I was very much wrong. I have slowly learned that the most powerful growth occurs when learning how to deal with the hardships and struggles that occur throughout ones life. Through my own personal experiences during my time back at Bucknell, I reflect as to how I have increasingly grown as a person through my struggles and endeavors in the last couple years.
As I write this, I am in Shoreditch, sitting outside this cute, cozy cafe called Cafe 1001. I write this while being surrounded by hipsters of all different shapes, sizes, and colors who would buy their coffee by the buckets. What was more interesting is that this cafe was smack in the middle of Brick Lane. I like to think of it as the Brooklyn of London. Here I was, drinking coffee with some wealthy Londoners, while surrounded by mostly South Asian immigrants who did not know a word of English. Writing this, in such a diverse area while reading the emails that President Bravman sent out contrasted really contrasted each other. Here I was, in Shoreditch, surrounded by people of every single color and race, eating indian food on the streets while sipping on Ethiopian coffee and German beer.
The best way to see how I have grown and matured in the last couple years, is to see who I was before I came to Bucknell. I went to the wealthiest public charter high school in Southern California. It was predominantly white, which meant that it was 50% Caucasian, 20% African American, 15% Hispanics and 15% Asians. Every other one of my friend’s parents were either a movie director, a B-list actor, an up-and-coming rapper, a record producer, etc. etc. My high school was located a mile from the beach facing the south and a mile from the mountains facing the north. As beautiful and magnificent as my high school was, the people in it were very much down-to-earth and open-minded. Everyone I had ever met, was very open to learning about new ideas and trying new foods. Although many of my friends did not like politics, they were still politically aware and active in the community. One of my friend’s dad is one of the set producers for Game of Thrones. Regardless of her economic status, her and I would go to Goodwill once a month just to find any vintage shorts or coats that we could and then we would drive down to Koreatown to buy the most delicious burritos in Los Angeles from a janked up food truck, which was only $2. Although I was always surrounded by so much wealth and prestige, I never felt ostracized as a middle-class, Muslim woman attending the school I did. Because of this, I assumed that going to Bucknell was not going to be any different and that I would be just fine in assimilating to the people and culture in this small east-coast, liberal arts institution.
During the last couple years, I have seen racism and discrimination on a level that I have not previously been familiar with. Racism and discrimination was never a problem for me until I attended Bucknell. I remember one of my first Bucknell parties, in which I had a couple friends who weren’t allowed to go to a party because the guy told us that “they were too dark and might feel uncomfortable in here”. From then on, I have overheard slight jabs and small racist comments which would perk up my interest in shame. What made it worse for me was the apathy that I dealt with when talking about racism to others. I would ask everyone, from my roommates to close friends, what they thought of the problems here at Bucknell and was faced with constant shutdowns with people saying “yeah it sucks” (and then moving on to another conversation) or “its not really our problem”. I initially came to London as an escape from all this apathy and to find out more about who I was as a person, but in a diverse and cultured setting. Unfortunately, this escape did not last long because I, along with the rest of the Bucknell community, received an email from Bravman stating that students were suspended over racist comments about “lynching n******” which were made on WVBU.
I started thinking about my time at Bucknell more and more. That, socially, it seems wonderful and ideal looking in from the outside, but on the inside it’s a bittersweet shock. If you don’t fit into the status quo, you could be ostracized and be criticized. I once told a friend that I thought Patagonia and Lilly Pulitzer were too expensive and basic for what they were and she told me that I better start liking it now or else I wouldn’t find myself with too many friends on this campus. I was shocked by how I could be discriminated just on the basis of not liking a brand.
This made me think about why people on my college campus think the way they do. I believe that our morals and values are taught to us from our youth. It is taught by parents, reinforced in the schools we go to, and then solidified by the people we interact with. I reflect on some of the people I know who I have heard say racist things to me on campus such as “immigrants are filthy animals who just take the jobs of Americans”, without realizing that my parents used to be one of these “immigrants”, 15 years ago. One of my friends who said this also told me that he “went to high school in a town just like Bucknell. Everyone knew each other, everyone got drunk together, and everyone was white”.
Recently, I decided to talk with some of my peers about what was said over on WVBU. I overheard someone say that what the men said was okay, because they were drunk. I was outraged. Does being drunk justify this? Then where do we draw the line to what is okay and not okay while being drunk. If someone threatened to rape me if he or she was drunk, would that be okay? I recently read a news report in which Bucknellians expressed how they felt about the situation. Many of them expressed a “watch out what you say on the media” and a “don’t get caught” view. This made me want to give up on working to fix on what is wrong with our campus. Students were worried about what they said, not because it was dehumanizing to say it to other human beings, but because they were worried about being a “future politician” if they were caught. I have spent many days wondering about where people get the viewpoints that they did, and I honestly believe that (once again) it is taught by parents, reinforced in the schools, and solidified by the people with interact with. Maybe some of the students in the Bucknell community aren’t ignorant, but just don’t have the proper exposure and education needed. Then I ask myself, what is the solution? Do discussions help? But why did we never have this discussion in, say, any of my classes? This is a topic that I believe will take years for me to even understand how to deal with it.
For me, the hardest part about talking about the problems that I deal with at Bucknell, is that people end up thinking that I am not grateful for what Bucknell has to offer and this is simply not true. I love being taught in an one-on-one setting by amazing professors who love teaching and their students. I love what I am learning and am so passionate with the opportunities available (such as the Bucknell-in-London program). However, while my peers may seem interesting to me on the outside, I have not yet been able to carry a deep, meaningful conversation with many of my peers. An example of this is what I wanted to see in London. I wanted to explore London with my peers, but after a while I realized that what I wanted to see and what many of the other people wanted to see was very different. Whereas I wanted to travel and explore every crook and canny of London, many of my peers were interested in just the pub and club scene.
So after a month here, I decided to venture off and take advantage of the cultural and diverse opportunities available to me here in London, that I don’t think I will be able to find at Bucknell. I’ve gone on to talks and sat it on lecturers hosted by University College London about perspective, psychology, and race/culture. I went to Rich Mix in Bethnal Green to check out the poetry slams and dances by various minority groups such as Bengali dances, Latino dances, and even Caribbean dances! Many times I have ventured off on my own to explore different neighborhoods of London, both the good and bad. The most shocking experience was traveling to two neighborhood which are near one another: Clapham and Brixton. Clapham is on the left side of the map (under the River Thames) and Brixton is on the right. Both are equidistant from the tube and take forever to get to. However, Clapham was full of very middle-class “white” folks and had many shopping centers along with an array of mani-pedi salons and high end tanning salons. Brixton, on the other hand, was full of immigrants and people of color. In fact, I did not see any white person during my 2 hour journey there. This shocked me as to how can two places right next to one another be so different from one another. My experiences at Bucknell and reading this poem made me realize that I needed to take advantage of everything this city has to offer. I have become more aware than ever on people, race, and discrimination, and used London to explore what I could not at my own University. I have grown and gained this perspective on life that I never thought I would have to, because of the last couple years and am using London to explore it further.