When I was in college, I was subjected to my first up close and personal experience with the abuse of civil rights (and thus began my crusade for social justice)… One night, I received an email of support from Noble Laureate Peter Agre. His message was simple: “His fight is our fight and it has just begun.”
Those words could NOT be more true today.
If you want to tell me that trump’s actions are in any possible way acceptable, I encourage you to read this essay, written by a minor child, about his experience as a refugee. If you can’t bear to read the truth, then I ask you to consider (at least) this single sentence:
“People say “the truth never dies” but in the country and place where I am from, the truth is never revealed for the poor and lower castes. The truth is buried with them.”
If that doesn’t resonate with you, please try this one on for size:
“Poverty and diseases surrounded us like the air itself. Children died of malaria and there were no hospitals nearby for medical treatment. Contaminated water caused people to vomit and diarrhea, and there were no warm clothes to wear against the harsh winter winds. Hunger was everywhere, and everyone was hopeless and waiting for death.”
I ran as fast as I could with my bare feet to see what was going on. A bunch of people were gathered in one of the community centers, and in the middle of the group a scared man was talking about a dead body he saw near the jungle. I was a little kid, so my friends and I hurried to see for ourselves. When we got there all we saw was a ton of people, so we decided to sneak in because we were small and could squeeze through the crowd.
When I got closer I smelled charcoal. All I could see was a burned and naked body. It was a girl. Elder people were standing around and crying. I felt sad and scared for the parents, and shortly after I arrived the police came and took the girl away. Rumors started a week later; some people said she was raped and then burned to destroy the evidence.
Everybody in the community was talking about what happened. My mother used to work with the Women’s Forum, and she dealt a lot with raising awareness for women’s violence, child trafficking, and discrimination. Because of her job, she had good knowledge of the case. Many people came to our house to talk, and I heard them saying something about the caste. The girl was from a lower caste and she was having a relationship with a boy from a higher one. They wanted to get married but their unification was impossible. The boy’s parents refused to agree.
In my community there were three different castes: the lower caste, the middle caste, and the high caste. The high caste was for rich people, and they did not allow members of the other castes to enter their houses. They refused to eat food someone from a lower caste touched. They considered the lowest caste impure, and they never married with someone from either of the other two castes. Inter-caste marriage of any kind was forbidden. This tradition has been enforced for hundreds of years, and in our camp there was never a time that an arranged marriage happened out of caste.
The caste was a serious problem, yet everybody believed and followed the custom begun by our first ancestors. The community people were extremely strict. They would do anything to stop a marriage between castes.Since the girl was known to be innocent, I wondered if the boy’s parents had found someone to kill her. Other people were saying the same, but like it was nothing. I started to worry that the same thing could happen to my younger sisters one day- and what would I do?
I asked my mother about situation because I was scared for my sisters. “What does it mean that the girl was murdered and the boy is fine?” I asked. “What if that girl was my sister?” I kept looking for answers and asking her if anyone would do anything. My mother explained that since the girl was burned, there couldn’t be any evidence for a court. To calm me down, she talked to the director of the Women’s Forum. He also said that there was no evidence and it would be a mistake to go against the higher caste family. In this country, the police and the law are very corrupt. Rich people and high caste people can get whatever they want.
People say “the truth never dies” but in the country and place where I am from, the truth is never revealed for the poor and lower castes. The truth is buried with them. There is nothing that I could have done, or my mother could have done, or anyone could have done even if there was evidence. Situations like this haven’t just happened in my camp, they are still happening in communities throughout this country today.
Even after coming to America, there is still a sense of discrimination towards people from the lower caste in our community. The older generation does not want it to end. It is a tradition they grew up with, and since many are uneducated they believe it should not be forgotten. A few weeks ago, one of my friends decided to marry someone from a different caste and her parents would not allow it. In America though, parents do not have the right to stop a marriage for simple discrimination. The marriage happened, but now elder people in the community are gossiping. Whenever I hear them I remind them that we are in the United States now, and the old caste system with its discrimination is gone. Unfortunately, I don’t think that generation will change. My constant comments cannot improve a lifetime of habit.
Nelson Mandela once said, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than it’s opposite.“The only way forward for our community is for my generationto begin teaching this tolerance to the next. By continuing to speak out, I believe that younger people will slowly develop the mentality that the discrimination of the caste is unjust. Then, when this slow shift in thought happens, our community will grow in equality.
Being born as a refugee means a life full of challenges every single day. Some of the obstacles I faced in the camp were not only difficult;they were dangerous. I have many memories: running away from my hut because the river was about to flood our home, my body aching and shivering but still moving to safety. Losing all of our possessions and starting over. Eating once a day when rations were low so my sisters could have more. Although each event left me a little broken inside, I endured and I survived. I never stopped believing in the future.
Poverty and diseases surrounded us like the air itself. Children died of malaria and there were no hospitals nearby for medical treatment. Contaminated water caused people to vomit and diarrhea, and there were no warm clothes to wear against the harsh winter winds. Hunger was everywhere, and everyone was hopeless and waiting for death. My father worked day and night to provide my family with food, but he was never able to earn enough to fulfill our essential needs. No matter how long he worked, we were as poor as before. Despite the fact that I lived in darkness, I had family members beside me to support and encourage me to work hard.
Living in the camp taught me more than survival; it taught me to be smart and creative in solving my problems. When I had to give up school completely for a month to work, I never stopped learning. I read books and did math problems at night before allowing myself to sleep. Although we had limited education with inexperienced teachers, I never stopped dreaming about college. During summers I worked as a gravel maker: I carried and broke stones with a hammer in order to provide builders with materials. Payment was two rupees for one bucket of gravel, and I saved half of what I earned for school and gave the rest to my parents. Even though I realistically knew I would never have enough for higher education, I never stopped.
I studied hard in school and often rose to the top of my classes. Somehow, I wanted to show the world that this refugee kid could become a great man. Finally, as Newton’s third law states, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” My hard work and dedication paid off. A group called the International Organization for Migration proposed a plan to allow refugees to resettle in seven different nations including the United States. After a discussion with my parents we decided that America was the best place to secure my sisters and me a better future. More than anything, my parents didn’t want us to have to survive the way that they did; poor and uneducated. We moved through the application process,identification checks, and medical exams until one day we were declared as legal immigrants. From that moment I started dreaming and believing that my goal was not too far. I worried about moving to an unknown land and leaving my childhood friends. However, the promise of America called us onward. We walked away from the country where I was born.
My family and I arrived in the United States, and my goal of education could finally become reality. I had a dream in my eyes and hope filled my heart. America is known as a land of freedom, inventors, and opportunities, and I knew that I would have to make the most of this new life. I didn’t realize that there would be so many obstacles to overcome. It was hard to adapt to the environment,learn a new language, confront a different standard of living, and face discrimination. With patience and resilience, I refused to give up my goal. I worked hard to achieve academically and I realized that education is not a desire- it’s a need. My mindset is fully focused on the path of success because after thirteen years of living in darkness, I had finally found a light of opportunities.
When my parents moved from Texas to Massachusetts, I chose to remain behind with my grandparents -who wanted to stay. It seemed dishonorable to leave two older people without English skills to exist on their own. Now we survive on their social security income, and I am fulfilling their needs with the best support I can provide. My parents are unable to help us, so I have learned to be careful with our bills, payments, and expenses on our small income.
Through my experiences, I have gained courage in myself and a belief in my path towards my future. My desire for success has been strengthened through the hardships I encountered throughout my life. I am now tough, smart, and resilient. My fight will continue until I become someone capable of leaving a great legacy behind.
#GetWoke. #StayWoke. This is not normal nor is it okay.
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” — Martin Niemoller