Finding My Voice Amongst the Silence

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YLI is My Story

As an Asian American living in the Bay Area, I’ve had my fair share of struggles with the concept of racial biases and stereotypes. Although I had plenty of peers who looked like me and shared the same culture that I did, I always felt like I didn’t have a voice in my community. It wasn’t until I was older that I understood that this wasn’t just something that I thought was off, it was entirely a real and systematic issue that affected the entire Asian community: The Model Minority myth. The stereotypes prevalent in my culture and in society told me that Asians would always be quiet, law abiding citizens who sat in the background and never spoke up. And it didn’t help that my parents never dissuaded my fears; rather, they subconsciously encouraged the very behaviors that made the stereotypes true. They had always taught me to keep quiet and not share my opinions. To them, doing so would only cause more trouble and attention. 

But, as I grew older, I realized that it was no longer something that I could merely follow along with. These stereotypes essentially reaffirmed to my community that it wasn’t worth it to speak out and share our opinions. And it was because of these subconscious beliefs that I felt that my voice was silenced. What I needed was a platform and space where I could speak my truths and how I felt on issues that mattered to me. I wanted to be able to understand the current systems society had put in place as well as how I could insert my own perspectives into the conversation. 

5 years ago, my sister and I persuaded our mother to sign us up for a speech and debate class. And now, as a competitor in Congressional Debate, I’ve found my place as a youth mock congress member debating with other like-minded individuals over how to solve American domestic and international policy issues. My speeches and arguments over the years have always emphasized protecting my mock constituents’ needs out of an understanding that as a representative to their interests, I am their voice. I’ve come to understand through my experience that a multitude of perspectives are needed in order to make comprehensive judgements. And by inserting my own perspective and morals into the discussion as well, I’ve learned that progress does not come from one-size fits all solutions, because they simply don’t exist. Instead, it requires compromise, conversation, and agreement over what needs to be done, and how to address it. 

It’s these values that have now led me to understand the importance of advocating for your own community and changing the barriers that prevent change and growth from occurring. I now continually aim to bring new perspectives and opinions as well as learn from my peers. I believe that by learning from each other, and the different stories we carry with us, we’ll only be more capable of understanding how to solve the issues we’re so passionate about for our community.