History shows us what we have done in the past and what we can do to make changes in the future. Listening to profound scholars, watching movies, and visiting historical sites and museums—these experiences provided me with new perspectives about issues existing in current society. The issues of public health, LGBTQ, immigration, housing, homelessness, gender equality, and transportation have been addressed during my time in Atlanta. After I learned about the history of colonization on Native Americans, enslaving Africans, and discrimination against immigrants in different periods of time, I see injustice and I am empowered to advocate for those human rights issues.
History shows us what we have done in the past and what we can do to make changes in the future.
When I watched the film “The Canary Effect,” I was terrified how European colonizers exploited Native Americans. In the past, Native Americans were utilized as slave labors, and their land and resources were taken away in order to achieve the colonizer’s economic interest. Nearly 98% of Native Americans were killed. More than that, the federal government implemented the legislation, the Family Plan Act, to sterilize Native Americans. Instead of protecting Native Americans, the federal government isolated them in tribes. They are discriminated against in employment, face disproportion- ate alcoholism, and have a higher rate of committing suicide. When government tried to allocate funding to support Native Americans, it was dismal to know that the federal government was not able to identify the locations of those tribes.
I was empowered that there are people who committed themselves to social justice even without governmental funding, to construct the memorial.
Another group that faced racial discrimination is African Americans. I visited the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama, a city where thousands of African Americans were trafficked as slaves during the 19th century. Black people were transported to the United States due to the growing labor demand in the U.S. The Atlantic slave trade deeply brutalized and dehumanized African Americans as plantation slave laborers. They worked in horrible working conditions and often suffered torture and sexual abuse. When I stopped at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, where the mass hanging steel rectangles signify black people who were lynched, I felt depressed that the government still does not have enough recognition for the history of slavery. In the meantime, I was empowered that there are people who committed themselves to social justice even without governmental funding, to construct the memorial.
Resistance becomes a part of the African American liberation movement. After abolishing slavery, racial segregation in the U.S. North and South remained the same. African Americans suffered alternative abuses, including execution via the electric chair as well as biased court proceedings. One of the examples is the “Jim Crow” law that mandated “separate but equal” facilities where African Americans only could go to non-white theaters, restrooms, buses, parks, schools, etc. They fought tirelessly against racism and for equality through different methods. Like Dr. Martin Luther King who is a well-known figure advocated for racial justice and equality through non-violent protests, many activists during the civil rights movements often faced violent retaliation, threats, and even death. For instance, the Brown v. Board of Education decision was the first national victory for racial equality so that students, regardless of color, can attend the same school. After the Supreme Court abolished segregation in public schools, the justice system still had bias toward African Americans. Southern lawmakers, intent on maintaining white supremacy targeted activists with police violence, arrest, oppression, and imprisonment. Many school districts were closed rather than accepting black students. The deep roots of American racism still negatively impacts African Americans contemporarily.
I am fortunate to have the opportunity to be in Atlanta and experience the civil rights movement by visiting different museums and historical sites. I also have the privilege to learn more about Dr. Martin Luther King. I went inside Dr. Martin Luther King’s home where he grew up. I visited the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr. Martin Luther King joined his father as co-pastor. I listened to Tom Houck, a Civil Rights Veteran and Dr. Martin Luther King’s driver, to learn about Dr. King as well as the history of Atlanta. I went to Dr. Martin Luther King’s South-View Cemetery and the Martin Luther King National Historic Park. The whole tour was a remarkable experience for me, which gives me a better understanding of Dr. King’s legacy and his contributions to the civil rights movement.
One solution I want to advance civil society and human rights is to increase minority’s voices through voting.
Reflecting on all of the experiences, one solution I want to advance civil society and human rights is to increase minority’s voices through voting. The discrimination against immigrants based on immigrants’ status, gender, race, religion, and sexual orientation is challenging in our society. Connecting as an immigrant, even though America is the most generous nation in the world for immigrants, the pattern of anti-Semitism and xenophobia has always been an issue toward immigrants in U.S. history, either documented or undocumented. For example, the United States implemented legislation on limiting Asian immigrants, including the Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese Internment, and the Muslim Ban. Many Asian immigrants do not know the U.S. history and are not civically engaged. As Dr. Carol Anderson spoke to at a workshop, African Americans faced significant obstacles to vote in the past, including literacy tests, poll taxes, and the good character clause. Until today, people still face barriers to vote, such as the requirement of identification to vote.
The Fellowship has empowered me to make changes and I will continue to inspire others to make changes. By knowing history, I become more conscious to fight for equality and justice.
As I reflect on how Asian Americans have a lower voting rate, I feel frustrated. According to New America, “though currently only 5.8 percent of the U.S. population, are the fastest-growing racial minority in the United States and are expected to make up one-tenth of all voters by 2044. Despite this impressive growth; however, Asian Americans have one of the dismal voter turnout rates: 47% compared to 66% for black voters and 64% for non-Hispanic white voters.” (1) Many Asian Americans are foreign-born, and they often lack the language proficiency and do not understand the American politics and the voting process. Therefore, Asian Americans, especially immigrants, need to be more civically engaged in political elections. By knowing how African Americans fought so hard to gain voting rights during the civil rights movement, I am determined to encourage them to vote.
The Fellowship has empowered me to make changes and I will continue to inspire others to make changes. By knowing history, I become more conscious to fight for equality and justice. When society become invisible, it is important for me to raise my voice to address issues in my community. I will engage, advocate, and empower others so people understand the struggling of the past and the promise of the future.
- Kim, Caitlin. (2017, September 7) “Why Asian Americans Don’t Vote,” New America. Retrieved from https://www.newamerica.org/weekly/edition-175/why-asian-americans-dont-vote