By Sudip Bhattacharya
AsAmNews Staff Writer
I was in undergrad when a deep depression took hold of me. It was freshman year and I was in my room, staring at the Raritan River outside my dorm at Rutgers. I was frustrated and angry. Most of all, I was feeling low, and for the rest of the semester, I barely uttered a word to anyone other than my parents or friends who I knew from high school.
I can’t tell you what exactly sparked the sadness that suddenly, engulfed me and made it harder to move my limbs, as if every ounce was encased in cement. There is no singular moment that I can point to, since that is not how my body and mind operate. Instead, it was a confluence of reasons, including my increasing alienation from the country I was born and raised in, a place of which I cared about but kept seeing seemingly mired in the past.
It’s the same way I feel now, as we near the general election, as we are forced to deal with a political climate consisting of hate and fear, and even terror. Back then, it was Cheney and war, and now, it’s Trump, and White anger. It’s sexists and pathological jerks. It’s the privileged leading the confused into the dungeons of racism and intolerance once again.
I am not naïve. I know this country wasn’t perfect. The U.S., as we know it, was founded by slave owners, by thieves and colonists, by Anglo men who wanted more, and more, and more, until all that was left were broken Black and indigenous bodies on the ground.
I understand that Trump isn’t unique. Reagan himself engaged in tactics of race-baiting and in many ways, his brand of campaigning gave birth to men like Trump, who pander to White Americans and conjure up images of a hallowed American era that never existed.
I am not naïve.
And yet, at times, I can’t help but feel like a fool.
I believe in the goodness of people. I believe that times can change, and that as the country becomes more diverse, we shall see a new light, a new way of living.
So why is this happening?
What are we doing here?
Tamir Rice. Sandra Bland. Nine shot and killed in Charleston. Six murdered at Oak Creek.
When will it end? I want it to end.
With every fiber of my being, I am consumed by the grief and gloom, and after years writing, as a journalist and in general, after so much invested in social justice, my body is not responding. I laid in bed a few mornings ago, staring at the wall, thinking of heartbreaks, best friends left behind in Queens when we moved, all the people I let down, political and otherwise, their shadows over mine, their lives which echo.
As you can guess, however, I did get up. I washed up, ate, read, wrote, even ran and walked outside. I almost had an urge to listen to Drake but fortunately, that was fleeting and I returned to my favorite song on Kendrick’s Untitled album, track 7.
I won’t lie and pretend I was back to what would be considered “normal.” That evening, I stayed up, my back hurting from stress, my mind swollen, and hoping to write a good enough outline for the next chapter in my book, and again, the shadows returned. Only this time, I made sure to remind myself of what I had, and of what’s real.
I, like many of you who are able to read this, are aware of what’s wrong. I, like many of you out there, especially my fellow Asian Americans and POC, know even though we expected our realities to have been better, there’s a part of us that remains optimistic, however small it may be. I can imagine that tiny light to sometimes, fade, flicker and almost, threaten to go out, like a candle. I can picture you also spending mornings staring at the ceiling, wondering if you could just melt and disappear into another dimension. But I also know that you are stronger than that, and you understand that so long as you keep moving, as long as you go to your work, to your university, to your friends, family, to those you love, that idealism will never disappear. It will guide you, like it has for years.
Because, if you are anything like me, and therefore, even as a POC, have some privileges, such as having a better life than our parents’ generation and the luxury of being on social media nearly 24/7 while countless others are stuck behind a grill at a fast food establishment, getting yelled at by their boss who refuses to pay them a living wage, then you’re aware of the sacrifices made for us to even be at this point.
Names like Huey Newton, Ida B. Wells, Yuri Kochiyama, glow in the night sky. They opposed apartheid, genocide, slavery, lynching, imperialism, and soul sucking sexism. They too experienced days when nothing made sense, and doubt flooded their rooms. And yet, we know what they did. Medgar Evers sacrificed his life. W.E.B. Du Bois sacrificed his career. Countless more gave themselves up for a better world.
About the time that my heart was heavy, I met some older students, who were active in Asian American activism, and who encouraged me to participate. Although hesitant and nervous, I went to meetings, and eventually, joined their groups, including a campus newspaper that was focused on Asian American issues.
I learned another important lesson that I want you to know as well:
You are not alone.
Those years in undergrad taught me that there were others who also believed in creating a better world, and who dealt with similar issues of being worn down and wearied. And yet, we never let anyone lose their way. We strove to support and show love to anyone who needed it in this enduring race.
I know you will get out of bed. I know you will find a way to make it through. I know you will be back out there, in whatever capacity you can, to gaze at the graying clouds and laugh.
And if you need a reminder, these words are always here for you.