In my seventeen years of life, I’ve experienced the joys of inclusion and the loneliness of exclusion. I’ve had friends of all backgrounds who have accepted me for who I am, and I’ve met people who have refused to get to know me because of those very idiosyncrasies. I have had my third-grade crush tell me I’m a terrorist, have dealt with a hall-mate at a camp who was very vocal about her distaste for Muslims, have attended a Catholic school from kindergarten until 9th grade, and have witnessed federal agents interrogate my father after 9/11.
Yet I always tell myself not to take negative experiences to heart. I firmly believe that the only way to overcome ignorance is to rise above it with the power of education. In total honesty, it does not bother me very much that I’m considered a minority in Deerfield. But I’ve never experienced as much loneliness on this campus as I did on January 27, 2017, when President Trump ordered a travel ban on immigrants and refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
I became aware of this executive decision as I was sitting in my room after the dance showcase on a Friday night. At first, I thought it was a joke. “How can the laws of the world allow this?” I thought. It sounded ridiculous, but as I continued my research, I realized that it was real. The “Muslim Ban,” one of the greatest orders that I feared during this election season, was becoming a reality.
I feared for my people, my family, and for the hundreds of millions of young Americans who will have to grow up in a country with a close-minded leader who serves as a supposed role model. It was the first time in my Deerfield career when I felt truly alone. I curled up in my dark green bungee chair, afraid of what the future had in store. While my hall mates were laughing and screaming out of joy and excitement for the weekend, I was alone in my room and didn’t know what I could do to be proactive.
Merriam-Webster’s Thesaurus defines “ignorance” as a noun that means, “the state of being unaware or uninformed.” Would I be ignorant for not understanding why Donald Trump is truly doing this? Would I be ignorant for starting a riot? After all, he is assuming the intentions of millions of innocent people. He is the one who is making every Muslim in this country feel alienated. He is the one pushing out people who simply want to find a safe haven without the fear of war.
My parents left their loved ones in Pakistan for the opportunities available to them in the United States, Mr. Trump. My parents have dedicated their lives as physicians for this country, Mr. Trump. Why can’t you reciprocate the respect? Why only ban the countries that you don’t have business with? Why do your decisions seem as if they are from a master business plan for bankruptcy and corruption rather than a plan to better our country? This doesn’t make any sense in my eyes. This doesn’t work.
In the ninth grade, I took Ms. Friend’s “Asia in World History” class. On countless occasions, my classmates and I discussed what makes a leader great, and my answer was always the same: open-mindedness. An open-minded leader who is culturally competent is the key to a successful society.
Why? A culturally competent leader is able to understand people of all backgrounds and work collaboratively with individuals from those groups. This way, the government serves everyone, not just certain groups of people. A culturally competent leader does not run away from his or her problems. A culturally competent leader believes in teamwork and is open to implementing new ideas and beliefs. A culturally competent leader is not someone like Donald Trump. But I believe that it is our responsibility as a community to be open-minded and culturally competent.
From the day most people are born, we are taught to be kind individuals and to always treat others they way you want to be treated. I believe that Deerfield strives to implement this value in its students and to help its students become independent leaders who know how to take action in various settings. But it seems to me that now is the time more than ever for Deerfield to help its students become culturally competent individuals who are able to understand that people are influenced by their cultures.
Deerfield needs to teach its students how to make a change, rather than simply stating the fact that it is doable. I believe this is the time that we, as a community, need to come together to provide support to each other and help each other create change, even if that means allowing others to shine more than our own selves.
Deerfield has the resources to provide for its passionate students who want to create a difference. Yet, for students, sometimes it seems as if staying quiet might be “safer” than speaking out. Sometimes fear outweighs passion for change. Questions like, “What if this isn’t cool?” or “What if no one will support me?” always fill a Deerfield student’s head. I believe that we need to learn how to be more courageous, unlike our President, whose reaction of fear is to just ban others rather than actually dealing with the situation. I believe we need to learn how to rise above ignorance and not be afraid to seem “wrong” initially.
I dare you, Deerfield, to step out of your comfort zone. I dare you, Deerfield, to get to know yourself and accept yourself. I dare you, Deerfield, to share the spotlight for the better. I dare you, Deerfield, to be the change that you always talk about wanting to see.