Taking the Risk: NYC Opening for Summer Camps

My brother and I joke that it was more fun to go to school than it was to stay home in the summers. Whenever we weren’t enrolled in camps, my mom had a full curriculum of Latin textbooks, math workbooks, and library-recommended summer reading lists planned for us. I was fortunate to grow up with a mother who was clued-in to the educational backslide that can happen during summer break. We always kept busy during the summertime.

This summer looks completely different for students and parents, alike. The work I’m doing at The Lower Eastside Girls Club (LEGC) reflects this major shift in summer programming.

Over the past week we have been working hard to pull together the COVID-19 protocol for LEGC. I delved into resources from other New York City businesses and restaurants, CDC summer camp guidelines, and YMCA child care practices to learn more about the safest ways to reopen the Girls Club. From cleaning and facilities work to symptom tracking and reporting, the leadership team had to think about every possible scenario that might arise during summer programming and come up with a plan. We created systematic protocols for entering the building for both Girls Club members and staff, purchased touchless water fountains and temperature scanners, and developed curriculum and schedules conducive to outdoor (and potentially virtual) engagement. Meanwhile, the research and recommendations change every minute. 

Though it isn’t completely clear what a COVID age summer camp will look like, I know that educational initiatives, like LEGC, are crucial at a time like this… 

In education the summer break backslide is called “summer learning loss.” Essentially, kids who are not academically engaged throughout the summers lose what they’ve learned during the school year. The Brookings Institution reports that “on average, students’ achievement scores decline over summer vacation by one month’s worth of school year learning.” Additionally, studies show that summer learning loss widens income-based reading achievement gaps. This difference is likely because “the flow of resources slows for students from disadvantaged backgrounds but not for students from advantaged backgrounds. Higher-income students tend to continue to have access to financial and human capital resources (such as parental education) over the summer, thereby facilitating learning.”

As you can imagine, educators aren’t just worried about summer learning loss this year. Curriculum plans took a major hit this past spring, with many students falling behind, even before summer vacation rolled around. Many parents stressed with healthcare crises, layoffs, and work-from-home schedules were unable to help their children with homework or were nervous to approach it without additional support. Also virtual learning wasn’t feasible for all students, especially if the family didn’t have reliable computer access or internet connection at home. The “COVID Slump,” as it’s named, presents itself as a looming issue in the fall.

So, summer camps are critical right now. Summer programming can bridge the gap between now and back-to-school season in the fall. Camps keep kids engaged during the current crisis, even if just to relieve stress during this time of high anxiety. Over the past four months of New York City’s shutdown, LEGC provided fresh produce, books, and arts and crafts materials to Girls Club members and families. They also came up with a plan to continue to work with members this summer, even if the building is shut down again. Re-opening has its risks, but students need accessible and affordable summer resources now more than ever.

COVID-19: How it Will Permanently Change Healthcare

This week, partially because I am premed, I decided to research how hospitals, including Choices Women’s Medical Center (my placement), are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. I wanted to understand how the outbreak would change the ways that patients interact with doctors. The biggest change I found was the increasing use of the telehealth system: a way in which patients can call in using video to schedule an appointment. I decided to interview a few people who are part of the clinic and do my own internet research about the pros/cons of a telehealth system.

Although Choices in-office care was open during the pandemic, they began to promote and expand their telehealth services. Though founded in 1971, Choices led in the development of online care for women’s health since 2016. According to one of my mentors, Choices Tele-Health was a way for the clinic to offer the same high-quality healthcare as their in-office visits while complying with social distancing guidelines. From the comfort and safety of a patient’s own home, Telehealth is another way to talk to healthcare professionals.

But wouldn’t online doctor appointments compromise quality? Apparently not, especially if the appointment requires little more than talking. Essentially, the same conversations occur in an in-office and telehealth visit: the only difference is that one is virtual. Patients can share a private, personal video meeting with one of Choices’ healthcare professionals or licensed social workers who will be able to address their specific concerns and answer any questions they may have.

Additionally, what’s cool about telehealth is that it allows patients to meet from anywhere! Telehealth allows flexibility with scheduling—a lunch break, after dinner, or on the drive to work. And, because the appointment is virtual, patients will not only save time and money, but it will limit the time they are are out of their home during this pandemic.

According to another mentor, “from counseling to a range of essential GYN visits including birth control, follow-ups, lab results, Full Pre-Natal Care, nutrition, and general options counseling, Choices ensures that their patients can privately and safely access our health professionals through our telehealth network”.

Now comes the confusing part: how does a patient tell the difference if they should have an in-person appointment or a telehealth appointment?  If your appointment requires minimal contact, then telehealth may be the right option. Examples include: follow up visits, consultations, and general questions about sickness symptoms, etc. However, if someone likely requires testing or in-office procedures, then they should schedule an in-office visit. According to their website, Choices also made it easy to shift between a virtual visit and an in-office visit if necessary. That’s so if a patient is not sure if you require any in-office procedures, they can also schedule a telehealth appointment and talk to their doctor about it first. That way, if they do require in-office testing or procedures, their doctor can transfer them to an in-office visit during their meeting, which can make their in-office visits shorter and their wait times less!

So, has COVID-19 permanently changed the way patients interact with doctors? The answer is a resounding YES! Now that telehealth has been popularized and streamlined, I believe that more and more doctor’s visits will be online. Be it annual appointments, follow-ups for procedures, or even just the question about the common cold, telehealth is using technology to make strides into the future.

NOT sorry

I am learning that social justice work includes MANY moments of despair, and that’s very worrisome for someone who likes to answer questions with “how do I play a part in this.. what can I do?”. But this week I learned about a situation and I actually felt that I could get involved instantly with the issue–that was different, exciting really.

Excited Comedy Central GIF by Broad City

I had heard about voter discrimination but I hadn’t sat and dived deep into the specifics of it. Through my internship I had the amazing opportunity to sit in with social justice organizations in New York as some of their leaders and litigators shared their work fighting voter suppression, including its past and present manifestations. The speakers included representatives from Latinx and Asian American legal organizations. However the speakers spoke about issues that resonated with me, similar issues that are present in the black community and it really made me feel a sense of unity among the organizations.

Obviously we all encounter different discrimination and I know just how real anti-blackness is, but I felt unity, which is hard to come by a lot of the time. It was a revelation: there are issues affecting the most disenfranchised populations of the United States and I have allies in those areas too. Looking at the struggles and fights of other disenfranchised groups that don’t look like you is important to see how your issues intersect.  Even if they don’t, their fight is also my fight because we cannot call this land free if some of us are continuously oppressed. ~which is why I don’t understand such hard core celebration for the fourth but that’s for another blog~

Either way, ways to get involved with voter discrimination include:

  1. Making sure to vote on or before November 3rd 
  2. Talking to your friends and family about the importance of the census ( it will affect redistricting for the next 10 years!!) and voting
  3. Learning about voting rights for others
  4. Work on the election protection national hotline
  5. Volunteer as an election worker (especially because a lack of available poll workers due to COVID can be used as an excuse to promote voter suppression this fall)

Surprise! this blog became a slick way to provide voting information :))Sorry Not Sorry Wteq GIF by chescaleigh

 

Liberation in a Pill

About a year ago I read Melinda Gates’s memoir, The Moment of Lift. In the book, the former Microsoft executive and Duke graduate discusses her work with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and her role as a global health advocate and leader. Gates’s work has focused on women’s empowerment, specifically concentrating on women’s health education and access to family planning in countries around the globe.

The book has definitely received plenty of flak in the past; reviewers point out some of the obvious issues with Gates’s service (i.e. she’s white and has sizable wealth and power to fuel her interests). But despite the criticism, her words really opened my eyes to a huge global issue. She hits hard on one crucial point: access to birth control is a key aspect to empowering women. 

A 2012 study showed that access to the birth control pill had large economic impacts for working women, both single and partnered. It found that “early availability of the birth control pill is responsible for roughly a third of women’s wage gains since the 1960’s.” These figures are attributable to women’s ability to control when and how they have a family, giving young women more time to invest into their careers early-on. This gave them greater workplace experience and more time to dedicate to education, especially for male-dominated fields.

The Moment of Lift largely focuses on family planning outside of the United States (mostly developing countries) and draws real life examples from Melinda Gates’s international travels. However, we need to recognize that inaccessibility to family planning is not a non-issue here at home.

For one, our school systems are long overdue for an overhaul of the sex education curriculum. The facts when it comes to sex-ed in public schools are astounding. Not all states require that sex-ed be taught, and even in states that do require sex-ed, the curriculum is not mandated to be medically accurate. This means that some teens are learning incorrect information, putting them at risk for unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. Additionally, many states place the focus on abstinence-only education, circumventing conversations about safe sex practices, including contraceptive use and use of barrier protection. The result is a high rate of teen pregnancy in the U.S., the burden falling primarily on young women and their futures. Our inadequate attention to the importance of health education is certainly a barrier in access to family planning, and ultimately a barrier to women. 

However the fight for increased access can’t just stop at sex education. Like many other essential drugs, birth control pills, injections, and implants fall into the hands of Big Pharma. Birth control pills aren’t sold over the counter in the U.S. and can be incredibly expensive to pay for out of pocket. This problem has only been exacerbated by the current Covid-19 pandemic. With unemployment on the rise, many women have lost health insurance benefits that pay for costly contraceptive methods. Additionally, for women who usually see a healthcare provider for contraceptive injections, insurance companies are blocking access to self-administered injections. It’s also important to note that for many women, birth control is not just used to prevent pregnancy. Many types of birth control are forms of hormone therapy to regulate the menstruation cycle or symptoms of other underlying hormonal issues. Even if not for contraceptive use, birth control is absolutely an essential item.

Finally, the great hypocrisy that affronts women’s reproductive rights in our country is that the same conservatives who will do everything in their power to overturn Roe vs. Wade, are also the ones unwilling to invest government resources into prevention and protection (sex education and affordable contraception) early-on. It’s about time that we reassess our strategy.

Reflection

Reflection can come in the quiet moments, or sometimes its forced upon you in the very loud ones. This week I have done a lot of reflection, within my internship but mostly outside of my internship. The current political climate forces me to have conversations and reflect on issues of racism and sexism that I have always known are present but have never been able to put a term to. I had the opportunity to speak with my mother and grandmother this week. Hearing about ideals towards women during their youth versus mine was engrossing. During my grandmother’s 20’s, women didn’t get their own apartments or go off to start life on their own; it wasn’t normalized and everyone would think of you as a “street woman.” My mother on the other hand always believed that women could do everything on their own. Contrastingly, my mother hadn’t encountered the direct colorism and racism that my siblings and I have encountered throughout our childhood.

While listening and reflecting, I think about the current fight in feminism and reproductive rights, how quickly things can change and how far women’s ideals and opportunities have come. During this time it’s hard to find hope, especially when you see blatant murders and acts of racism continuously protected despite generational fights against it. I believe hope will be found by choosing to ponder on the opportunities for change. The Supreme Court Justice ruling this week, protecting Louisiana clinics exemplified potential for change. I’m choosing to hold on to these moments while I continue focusing on a future of fighting for equality and basic human rights for women and people of color.

Don’t just abolish the police

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve slowly come to realize something –  the government is a pointless entity. These people in positions of power are not only a waste of taxpayer money, but they also are a huge source of harm. The government’s net value to society is negative – not even net neutral, which would have been more acceptable. The reasons I am going to lay out in a bit are both shocking and depressing because if being ruled by a government is wrong, what is the right way to live? I know if my dad were to read this blog, he would say, “Government systems have prevailed for a long time. That definitely means there is some form of benefit to them. People are not dumb. Can you even imagine a world without laws and regulations?” To this I say, we have never been able to break free of the bounds of the status quo. We all go through life riding the system, rarely ever questioning if everything we know is truly right. Thinking of an alternative, and on top of that, executing this alternative, persuading people, and instituting change is far too much effort. We just learn to suck up our fears and feelings of injustice because the system in question is much too large and ingrained in the human psyche to change. 

In “The Color of Choice – White Supremacy and Reproductive Justice” from The Color of Violence, Loretta J. Ross makes a powerful statement:

“Fears of being numerically and politically overwhelmed by people of color bleach meaning from any alternative interpretations of the constellation of population control policies that restrict immigration by people of color, encourage sterilization and contraceptive abuse by people of color, and incarcerate upwards of 2 million people, the vast majority of whom are people of color.”

Ross forwards the argument that people of color are intentionally excluded from the population. Commonly read authors and activists emphasize the exclusion of POC from decision-making seats, and their writing makes the exclusion appear as an unfortunate consequence of uninformed choices. However, Ross’ text is striking because she explicitly highlights the intentional attempt to decrease the numbers of POC bodies in our country. She pushes the idea that non-POC crave a nation without people unlike them. 

Immigration, sterilization/contraceptive use, and incarceration – who is in charge of these things? Individuals making decisions for the rest of the population – the government. I used to have a very idealistic mindset that every decision the government makes is a good one. Every law is for the best of the people, and the government can never cause harm. These optimistic thoughts were a result of our school system’s teachings, including that the government is divided into 3 branches to avoid abuses of power and to make sure decisions are made with the people’s best interest in mind. Our K-12 schooling never bothered to teach us about voices that don’t get a say in these 3 branches.

The priorities of our country are misnumbered. We focus on things like trade wars, creating/scaling conflicts outside our country, and building an economy supporting the top 1%. What about building better school systems, economic empowerment programs, and healthcare systems for the rest 99%? What about helping the woman who is battered every night by her husband and continues going to work with bruises to feed her family? Who is helping them? This is the problem with a decision-making body that isn’t composed of people that know what it’s like to be on the outside, to not have a piece of the pie that keeps them healthy. Especially in a democratic system, only individuals with access to resources, campaign managers, sufficient capital, and a relatively privileged lifestyle will be able to successfully run for office. Growing up poor means you don’t have the same capital that your competitors have, so no one hears your name nor votes you in. The damning outcome of this is that low income people have no representation, leading to laws which are never made with their interests in mind. Other interests are prioritized. What is the message of this system? Not only are your wants as a poor person discardable, but so is your life (highlighted even more by the current pandemic – low-income minorities are the ones disproportionately affected). 

The central issue with any form of governance is that some people are deemed more worthy than others. If we take the most basic example, the president’s extensive security system, this becomes abundantly clear. The value of the president’s life is greater than any civilian. His security force is expected to lay down their lives for his safety. This level of a strict hierarchy in living importance is abhorrent. The idea dictating that the president deserves to live more than someone else has no natural basis. Unsurprisingly, the starting point for this system is that one human life is greater than another. Not only is this framework morally arbitrary, but it is created by those at the top. 

The homogeneous demographic of our governing system – from afropunk.com

Our ruling party decides on the basis of the birth lottery who deserves a better quality of life. If you are born poor or are an immigrant, no one cares that your neighborhood doesn’t have a proper education system. No one cares that the rate of students that dropout of high school is triple that of a wealthy district. But your government does care about spending time on crafting and discarding immigration laws every couple years, giving reproductive rights then rolling it back, and constantly debating the cost of healthcare. These useless discussions and debates do nothing positive for the general well being of the population.

The general lack of purpose of the extensive legal system became clear to me through my time with Sanctuary. I’ve been attending the orientations for legal interns at Sanctuary for a couple weeks. In these presentations, everyday there are new topics and their legal backgrounds discussed. Sessions explained things such as the laws governing divorce, child custody, immigration rights, and cybersexual safety. It bothers me a little more everyday that the laws behind these subjects are so complex. There are loopholes and difficult, unclear language that a lay person would never understand. The difference in utility between legal standards such as “clear and convincing evidence” and “preponderance of the evidence” appear randomly assigned and even change from time to time. The entire basis of the legal industry was created to leave out everyone except those who spend years learning law. This is problematic for two reasons: first, we once again make it near impossible for people to defend themselves properly, they are dependent on a third party, and if they can’t afford a skilled third party, they are already behind; second, the purpose of these legalities and specificities are self-assigned. There is no purpose to keep an extensive legal system that people have to swim through to, for example, achieve citizenship or be allowed to live in a country. 

The social contract dictates that we give up some rights and liberties for the protection of the government. If the government fails to provide this protection to a large body of individuals, they are not fulfilling their duty, and therefore, we have no reason to submit to a ruling party. 

\Stay tuned for next week’s blog which will include the moral reasoning to select a world without rulers and what this alternative looks like!

Black Lives Matter: How Racism in Healthcare is Putting Women’s Lives at Risk

This week, my placement, Choices Women’s Medical Center, wanted me to do research and help write an article about systemic racism in US healthcare and how it directly causes differences in rates of mortality and morbidity. They asked me to do this in light of the Black Lives Matter movement. While I always knew that systemic racism impacted the treatment of patients by doctors and staff, I was absolutely appalled by how huge of a difference a patient’s race can have on their likelihood to live or die from treatable illness. Here is just a fraction of what I learned:

“Imagine this: You go to the doctor and routinely feel unseen, unheard, misunderstood. Sometimes you fear you’ve been misdiagnosed. But your concerns are brushed off. You aren’t apprised of the full range of treatment options—the doctor seems to assume they don’t apply to you, or that you can’t take in all the information. Your local hospital is underfunded, the equipment outdated, frequently nonfunctional. You’re denied pain meds. You’re handled brusquely. Staff openly question your ability to pay.” (Emma Stallings, Oprah Magazine).

woman with mouth taped over

Dr. Monique Teller also quotes the experience of one of her black female patients in the emergency room: “They treated me like I was trying to play them, like I was just trying to get pain meds out of them. They didn’t try to make any diagnosis or help me at all. They couldn’t get rid of me fast enough”. Her patient was convinced that she was treated poorly because she was black.

And she was probably right. Not every black woman has had experiences like these, but it is clear that they are disappointingly familiar to the vast majority. According to a study done by the CDC in 2011, black women are three to four times more likely than white women to die from complications during pregnancy or childbirth. In fact, they made up 42.8% of the deaths resulting from pregnancy or childbirth in comparison to white women, who only made up 12.8% of this population.

It is undeniable that the American healthcare system is beset with inequalities that disproportionately impact people of color, especially black people. These inequalities contribute to uneven access to services, gaps in health insurance coverage, and poorer health outcomes amongst certain populations. Doctors may take an oath to treat all patients equally, and while most are not explicitly racist, they operate within a system that is inherently racist.

“Black women are treated differently because of the color of their skin,” said psychologist Fleda Jackson in the Fusion documentary The Naked Truth: Death by Delivery. “Many don’t know their rights and suffer abuses, and they don’t have insurance. And they also suffer from sexism. They are Black and they are women. There is no rest for them in these circumstances.”

We cannot sit idly by and allow this horrible injustice to continue happening. One fact is clear: the United States healthcare system must change. In order to fight racism and discrimination, we must name, recognize, and fully understand the attitudes and actions that put the lives of black people in danger, especially in the healthcare industry. We need to be able to somehow manage bigotry safely and educate ourselves and others. We need to practice and model tolerance, open-mindedness, peace, and respect for one another.

After all, the struggles of one marginalized community are struggles of all of us. Black Lives Matter.

When I grow up

When you’re a little kid everyone asks what you want to be when you grow up; you have to think about your future as an adult; it seems so magical when you’re young. You say you want to be a doctor or a chef, maybe a scientist or professional soccer player.

rachel cruze whatever GIF by Ramsey Solutions

Never did I think my future career goal would be fighting for the right to life and opportunities for black and brown people. That didn’t necessarily align with my idea of a magical adulthood where my peers and I have the opportunity to be “anything we want.”

This week I was afforded the opportunity to sit in on a webinar on the criminalization of girls of color. Through this webinar and the readings from the previous week, I thought about how the systems and laws created to protect underserved communities still seem to leave out people of color. One of my supervisors made the comment after the webinar, that the issue of criminalizing girls of color in court was an issue brought up MANY years ago and yet is still an issue people are recently learning about.

I see a lot of discussion on social media platforms about how systems created to oppress people of color cannot be the same ones to save them. It really brings into question if these systems maintaining the exclusion of black and brown people is the only solution for true inclusion of black and brown people. I can’t imagine the United States breaking down the systems they spent so long putting into place to create these disparities. So, it makes me wonder what the future holds for people of color. There are young children in immigration camps who already see that the United States is not a magical place. There are young black boys who already know their life is seen as expendable. As we expose the injustices and speak out against them, I wonder what the future generations will encounter if we break down these systems and more importantly what it will look like if we don’t.

Sisters By Any Other Name

I grew up always thinking that I wanted to follow in my mom’s footsteps and attend Mount Holyoke College, one of the first women’s colleges to be established in the nation. However, after attending an all girls’ school for high school, I wanted to switch it up for my college career. 

As much as I love going to Duke, sometimes I wish we could return to the olden days on campus. I think: What would it be like to go back to Durham in the 60s? To live and learn with all of the other women at Duke on our safe haven of East Campus? I hardly ever express this sentiment out loud, because when I’ve said it in the past, people tend to think I’m crazy. I’ll admit that I have a slight obsession with old pictures from women’s colleges: young women walking to class together with their perfectly hot-roller-curled hair, wool skirts, and sweater sets. If you’ve ever seen Julia Roberts’s Mona Lisa Smile then you know exactly what I’m talking about; and if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.

However, as crazy as people may think I am, the idea of gender segregated colleges is not all that old. Did you know that Duke didn’t become co-ed until 1972? (1972! Less than 50 years ago!). Even more interesting, Columbia College at Columbia University didn’t admit women until 1981 but it maintained its all women’s institution, Barnard, which now runs as its own college within the Columbia University system.

Here’s an interesting question to consider: was integrating women into men’s colleges actually better for women?

While I don’t have an answer for this question, the data certainly makes a compelling argument for the value of single-sex education. Women who attended women’s colleges are disproportionately represented in areas of leadership. Despite the fact that only 2% of women attend women’s colleges, 20% of women in Congress are graduates of women’s colleges along with 30% of women on a recent Businessweek list of women rising in corporate America. Women like Hillary Clinton, Gloria Steinem, and even my mom were educated in an environment completely surrounded by driven and ambitious women. 

You may be thinking, Well, that’s all well and good. But women’s colleges aren’t representative of the real world, right?. To which I say, think about it like this: graduates of women’s colleges and all girls’ schools were forced to question traditional gender roles and assume positions of leadership in the classroom, and therefore were unhindered (or at least less hindered than their co-ed peers) by these gender stereotypes in the real world. I definitely had this experience, and I think most graduates of women’s schools would agree. There’s something incredibly uniting about graduating in a white dress.

However, I also recognize that single gender education is a highly privileged experience. Single gender classrooms in public schools are rare, leaving little to no options in this arena for most young women. That’s one reason why I find the work at the Lower Eastside Girls Club (LEGC) of NY so incredibly important and why I was inspired to work there. Girls are able to learn for free in a women-empowered environment by positive female role models. LEGC addresses critical leadership and business skills for girls who likely aren’t learning about leadership in their co-ed schools. I promise this isn’t just an ad for LEGC; but LEGC is an organization that focuses on the benefits of girls education, an issue that is clearly close to my heart.

I don’t think that Duke will be splitting into single-sex colleges anytime soon – to be honest, it just doesn’t match the culture of the school on the whole. However, co-ed schools can garner an abundance of knowledge from all women’s institutions to create safer and more equal learning environments for all women on campus. What are some ways we can create all women’s settings on campus and how can we make them available to every woman that wants to participate? Maybe most importantly, how can we show those in charge that these issues are important, if not critical, for the advancement of college-educated women?

Creating a Culture of Fear

For some time now, our political and social climate has been transforming into one of outspoken voices creating change in diversity and inclusion. This shift recently gained fierce momentum with the brutal murder of George Floyd by a police officer. The gruesome video, which has now circulated all over social media and news outlets, shows Floyd pleading with the officer to breathe and calling out to his mother, knowing he is at death’s door. The officer abuses his position of power and kills Floyd amidst onlookers begging him to let the man breathe. The reality we face today of cruel racism is jarring and bone-chilling for people within communities of color. However, the reactionary anger is just as frightening when trying to imagine a future devoid of racism. 

Recently, the organization I’m working with, Sanctuary for Families, started a lot of discussion on how to increase diversity and inclusion in the workplace and throughout the work of the organization. In these meetings, orientations, and even conversations with other Duke organizations I’m a part of, I’ve noticed an obvious fear – the fear of being wrong. The fear of saying something potentially offensive, of being on the wrong side of the argument, of causing harm when there is zero intention to hurt. 

I was in the legal intern orientation meeting today, and the law students present brought up their own experiences with concepts of diversity and inclusion. One common ground between many of them was that they repeatedly prefaced their thoughts by statements of, “I don’t mean this offensively” or “I’m not sure if this is correct, but..”. 

I couldn’t have been more surprised. These were students of law, working for a domestic violence nonprofit. In order to get into law school and develop an active interest in a social issue such as domestic violence and the patriarchy fueling the injustice, they would have had to undergo significant learning along the lines of classes about social justice or in-depth discussions with mentors passionate about prevalent inequalities. Most definitely (or you would hope), they would understand underlying structures and prejudices better than the average American or even a STEM student uninterested in class and structure issues. These law students should feel confident in their discussions of discrimination and inequality because they have undergone such in-depth and oftentimes intensive training on how our society fails people in the lowest brackets. Why, then, are they afraid of giving their opinion, telling their story? If someone who is knowledgeable on social problems is reluctant to speak on social issues for fear of being wrong, what does this say about individuals who may feel even less socially aware or be slightly more introverted and terrified of saying something insensitive?

In the meeting, students raised in Spain, Mexico, and Peru all questioned their thoughts and whether it was right for them to be thinking the way they thought. They were afraid of being wrong about a social problem because oftentimes the outcomes of speaking insensitively, even without intention, can be dire, including public call outs, negative opinions, and punitive correcting words. The issue is – you can’t fault someone for their way of thinking; it’s a consequence of where they grew up and the beliefs of the people closest to them. 

The battle for social change often includes harsh, scathing criticism that is given by people striving for a more just system. It’s not fair for us to demean or insult someone in any way because of how they think. This can in turn be counterproductive because it turns individuals away from the side of a debate that is not welcoming or kind and willing to teach. There is going to be a constant fear, especially for people that are more reserved in nature, of being wrong, being spoken down to, or being thought less of. 

from scottlang.net leadership

Therefore, someone has two options: either don’t join a fight for social change because you are not good enough and don’t understand the underlying issues well, or just keep all thoughts to yourself. Both options are detrimental to the general wellbeing of society. Rather, individuals who are more knowledgeable on matters of social work should attempt to meet others in their headspace. Explain to them that it is okay they aren’t aware, it’s not their fault, you can’t be born knowing what is right to say and what is wrong, but the effort that they show to be more aware is what is crucial, and from there attempt to alter a more racist/sexist/etc way of thinking. 

My fear is that one day, only a singular portion of the population will speak out about social wrongs, and the other half will be silent or fearful of voicing their opinions. Not only will this create echo chambers, in which individuals seek out like-minded peers to avoid embarrassing interactions and, resultantly, have their ideas parroted out to them, but we won’t ever be able to have the power and strength of minds working together. Our current culture alienates people and ideas that could be our biggest allies. Fear is a dangerous thing.