December 1, 2015

ZUMBA | Here It Is

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By SARAH ZUMBA

To say that these past few weeks have been tiring would be an understatement. So much has been happening all over the world, and none are incidents that I can ignore. This is true whether they happened on a campus I was visiting, my hometown of Chicago, in Beirut or elsewhere. I know that I have no control over what happens in the world, but it doesn’t exempt me from feeling like I have to do something in response. For me, that “something” is typically writing, personally or for publication. Despite this, I’ve been finding it difficult to pick just one topic to write about, indicative of the intersectionality of everything that has been occurring around the world, but also indicative of the way all these issues have been running around in my head without stop.

As a woman of color, every time I see some new incident of racism or some comment denouncing the actions of my fellow people of color, it’s another blow to my already weak body. The past few weeks have seen many incidents where people with marginalized identities have faced multiple forms of discrimination and harm to their well-being. It’s no wonder why I’m exhausted, like many others in the fight. Every incident, every lack of response or inaction serves as another reminder that I’m not really meant to thrive or even be in this institution. It was never for me, as difficult as that is to cope with. Systematically, based upon my ethnicity and gender, I’m extremely lucky to be where I am today. As it’s the end of the semester, and given everything that has been happening, it’s important for me to truly think about my place in this institution and the way I go about using the platforms I’ve been given. I am aware that being at an Ivy League University comes with a certain amount of privilege and elitism. The hope is that whatever act of defiance we perform aids in the overall effort to create change. I’m sure that is the hope of people fighting for change in every capacity. That’s why Black students at Brandeis University occupied Ford Hall for twelve days in order for the administration to meet their demands and take action towards inclusivity in a predominantly white institution, why detained immigrant women at T. Don Hutto are on hunger strike after continuously being mistreated, why people are protesting in the streets of Chicago after it took a year for the video of Laquan McDonald being shot sixteen times by a white police officer to be released and for the state’s attorney’s office to file charges.

This column itself is a space where I can ensure my words are voiced freely, which is something not a right that’s guaranteed everywhere in the world. When people tell me my words don’t matter, that they don’t hold weight, it hurts. But I’m reminded of why I write. I’m one of millions of shouting voices, but it doesn’t mean that what I say isn’t impactful. Again, not everyone has the opportunity to speak their minds freely without any drastic repercussions such as physical harm or even death. All words are valuable, which is why I think I love them so much. There are so many factors trying to break me and I refuse to allow it.

Some people may see “rioters” as rebels destroying their own cities, but I see people taking back their communities. They can point out that, yes, police officers face life threatening situations, but that was their career choice; whereas the color of a person’s skin, how they look and the area they live is not a choice. I can say that this institution and this nation have progressed, but that it isn’t enough and there’s no need to apologize when I demand for more. Maybe I sound redundant, but I keep having to say the same things because we still haven’t reached the point where I can stop. I’m writing with my heart and with my emotions because that’s the message I need to get through. I need to prove that I’m a human because there are factors and people working against me to make me think that I’m lesser. I’m not trying to fit into the frame of the white gaze.

That being said, this level of consciousness isn’t where I’ve always been. It has been developing for years as I maneuvered through the world in my own marginalized skin and absorbed information that I found or was presented to me. It is still continuing to develop. This is something to consider as a person subjected to oppression or even as an ally; the learning never stops. To every person in the United States and the rest of the world who are continuously fighting for that “something better:” I’m with you and I’m incredibly grateful for everything that you’re doing. We may not know each other, and maybe I haven’t heard your story. But know that whatever you’re doing is valuable and I care nonetheless.

Sarah Zumba is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at sez29@cornell.edu. Zumba Works it Out appears alternate Wednesdays this semester.

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