An Open Response To #AllLivesMatter

An Open Response To #AllLivesMatter

Social change for an important cause.
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One of the biggest things that I admire about SUNY Old Westbury to this day is how diverse the campus is and its large focus on social justice and change. This is coming from someone who would typically be one of maybe two other students of color sitting in a classroom during high school and feeling a little out of place. Since starting my college life at SUNY Old Westbury, I’ve come to notice how much more comfortable I feel seeing myself surrounded by a multitude of diverse and different people.

The first thing I was taught when I started at SUNY Old Westbury was all about social justice and change, especially that of the college taking a part in that on multiple occasions. Of course, it wasn’t the first time I was hearing about any of that stuff seeing as I frequently see calls to social change in a lot of different places anyway, specifically the Internet. However, for me it felt a little different and more memorable just knowing that the school I’m attending was, and still is, influenced by immense social justice and change to the point where it inspires the student body to act and spread awareness about the issues that are important.

In light of very recent and unnecessarily long events that have been happening all around the country, SUNY Old Westbury is hosting a week dedicated to the #BlackLivesMatter movement between September 12th until September 16th. This week is going to be full of a number of events like spoken word poetry slams, speeches, Q&A sessions, and places where people can freely express themselves based on the movement. The #BlackLivesMatter movement has been such an important movement not just on social media, but for a whole group of people that has been, unfortunately, marginalized and disregarded for a really long time. In short, the movement provides a safe space for the people involved and also helps in advocating change to get rid of injustice and provide more rights and freedom for a diverse community. It also sheds immense light on the issue of innocent lives being killed due to armed forces like the country's very own police system. The movement is not dismissing the struggles of other communities, but they are trying to fix a problem that has been going on for far too long.

As SUNY Old Westbury is a school that was involved in multiple social change movements upon the college’s construction, seeing recently made movements like the #BlackLivesMatter week coming onto campus is nice to see as it makes us all more aware about the situations happening currently in our present day and gives a chance for students to participate and express themselves. However, with a movement towards a specific group of people and cause, it’s no surprise that there will be opposing groups that disagree with certain aspects towards the fact that there is a whole week dedicated to a social movement. In fact, amidst the preparation for this week and all its events emerged a group formally known as SUNY Old Westbury #AllLivesMatter that plans on silently protesting during this week. Here are my opinions on the matter.

First and foremost, I am not at all saying at all that the emergence of this group on our campus is a bad thing as people are definitely entitled to their own opinion and can express it however they want. I am also not attacking or belittling the thoughts or opinions of those involved in the group at all. However, there is something a little off to me when I see a group like this base their purpose of their movement as a diversity issue. Ultimately, the #AllLivesMatter movement advocates for not just the rights for the lives of black people, but for all people of all races, cultures, and religions. It also pushes for “unity, not division.” In retrospect, it is not a harmful movement as it advocates for everyone, however there is something vital the movement is not realizing and that is, just because there are other movements that are group-specific like the #BlackLivesMatter movement, it does not mean that they are dismissing the importance of other people’s lives. Take myself for example, I'm a nineteen year old Pakistani and Muslim girl who knows first hand how horribly people think about both my culture and religion in all different aspects. I advocate for the rights of Muslims and to end the stigma against Islam. I do not, however, feel as if the #BlackLivesMatter movement is harmful for me because I also want justice to be served and I stand by them.

The call for the #BlackLivesMatter movement goes back to constant years of racism, marginalization, and degradation towards the black community within the United States. There has been vital and important social changes that have made things more liberating and free for nearly everyone, but the racism aspect is still a problem. So when I see a group like #AllLivesMatter taking a stand against the notion of a group being able to freely express themselves because of an issue that should be resolved, it makes me feel like the feelings and justified thoughts of those involved in the #BlackLivesMatter movement are dismissed.

It is important to acknowledge that all lives do in fact matter, however there's something scary knowing that no matter how much you advocate for all lives mattering, there are still groups of people who are constantly marginalized and mistreated because of reasons that should not exist. This notion also makes me think that it's bad to be advocating in something group-specific just because it's not about everyone.

I think I've said all that I wanted to discuss about this matter at this point, however I'll end it with some questions: Since the #AllLivesMatter movement makes it a goal to let everyone know that we should be unified and not divided, why do the racial issues and injustice towards specific groups of people keep occurring?

Why are innocent lives still being taken away?

Cover Image Credit: pixabay

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​An Open Letter To The People Who Don’t Tip Their Servers

This one's for you.
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Dear Person Who Has No Idea How Much The 0 In The “Tip:" Line Matters,

I want to by asking you a simple question: Why?

Is it because you can't afford it? Is it because you are blind to the fact that the tip you leave is how the waiter/waitress serving you is making their living? Is it because you're just lazy and you “don't feel like it"?

Is it because you think that, while taking care of not only your table but at least three to five others, they took too long bringing you that side of ranch dressing? Or is it just because you're unaware that as a server these people make $2.85 an hour plus TIPS?

The average waiter/waitress is only supposed to be paid $2.13 an hour plus tips according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

That then leaves the waiter/waitress with a paycheck with the numbers **$0.00** and the words “Not a real paycheck." stamped on it. Therefore these men and women completely rely on the tips they make during the week to pay their bills.

So, with that being said, I have a few words for those of you who are ignorant enough to leave without leaving a few dollars in the “tip:" line.

Imagine if you go to work, the night starts off slow, then almost like a bomb went off the entire workplace is chaotic and you can't seem to find a minute to stop and breathe, let alone think about what to do next.

Imagine that you are helping a total of six different groups of people at one time, with each group containing two to 10 people.

Imagine that you are working your ass off to make sure that these customers have the best experience possible. Then you cash them out, you hand them a pen and a receipt, say “Thank you so much! It was a pleasure serving you, have a great day!"

Imagine you walk away to attempt to start one of the 17 other things you need to complete, watch as the group you just thanked leaves, and maybe even wave goodbye.

Imagine you are cleaning up the mess that they have so kindly left behind, you look down at the receipt and realize there's a sad face on the tip line of a $24.83 bill.

Imagine how devastated you feel knowing that you helped these people as much as you could just to have them throw water on the fire you need to complete the night.

Now, realize that whenever you decide not to tip your waitress, this is nine out of 10 times what they go through. I cannot stress enough how important it is for people to realize that this is someone's profession — whether they are a college student, a single mother working their second job of the day, a new dad who needs to pay off the loan he needed to take out to get a safer car for his child, your friend, your mom, your dad, your sister, your brother, you.

If you cannot afford to tip, do not come out to eat. If you cannot afford the three alcoholic drinks you gulped down, plus your food and a tip do not come out to eat.

If you cannot afford the $10 wings that become half-off on Tuesdays plus that water you asked for, do not come out to eat.

If you cannot see that the person in front of you is working their best to accommodate you, while trying to do the same for the other five tables around you, do not come out to eat. If you cannot realize that the man or woman in front of you is a real person, with their own personal lives and problems and that maybe these problems have led them to be the reason they are standing in front of you, then do not come out to eat.

As a server myself, it kills me to see the people around me being deprived of the money that they were supposed to earn. It kills me to see the three dollars you left on a $40 bill. It kills me that you cannot stand to put yourself in our shoes — as if you're better than us. I wonder if you realize that you single-handedly ruined part of our nights.

I wonder if maybe one day you will be in our shoes, and I hope to God no one treats you how you have treated us. But if they do, then maybe you'll realize how we felt when you left no tip after we gave you our time.

Cover Image Credit: Hailea Shallock

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You Shouldn't Be Ashamed Of Your Black Hair, Don't Let Anyone Tell You Differently

Growing up in predominantly white schools changed the way I felt about myself, including embracing my hair, but other people's opinion shouldn't stop you from embracing the beauty of your culture.

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Throughout my entire life, something I struggled with was my hair, even though I never really talked about it. I had never been very confident in it, and as I started to do it on my own, I struggled with keeping it healthy and eventually had to keep cutting it short to hide how damaged it was (still is).

I was constantly straightening it and got to a point where I was relaxing it every 3-4 weeks instead of the minimum point of 2-3 months. Every time it looked frizzy in the slightest, I'd text my mom and ask if she'd be able to lather on the chemicals that night. I thought what I was doing was okay and that my hair would somehow manage to become healthy again on its own, but it took me a really long time to admit to myself that I was damaging my hair because of my own insecurities.

This is the first time I'm being completely honest about all of these thoughts.

My first encounter with negative opinions about my hair was when I was in preschool, K4 to be exact, at a predominantly white school. I don't even remember much of it myself, but my mom would tell me how I would come home crying about kids calling me names such as "poodle" and would just constantly pick on me. All because of my hair. Sure, it may not seem that much now, but I was 4 years old. So, my mom decided to relax my hair, thinking that it'd make everything better.

But here comes the third grade. I was new at school and my only close friend was the only other black girl in my class. When my hair had gotten a bit wet during a relay race on field day, a kid in my class touched it and proceeded to ask why it felt like wheat grass.

That's when I stopped letting people touch my hair.

Constantly throughout middle school, I'd get told I had "white girl hair" and black girls would thrust their hand up my scalp to feel for weave tracks. This just encouraged me to do even more damage. But during the summer in-between grades, I would get my hair braided, and friends would text me asking "Why would you get a weave?" Just a few months ago, I had friends saying "I'm glad you never get a weave. I hope you never do that to your hair." This discouraged me from taking the precautions I should have been using to keep my hair protected, its fragile state not being made for being chemically straightened but to bounce freely as natural curls.

It had been almost 5 years since the last time I have braided my hair or done any protective styling in general because these things and the negative way my "friends" talked about me for it were sticking with me, making me think it was wrong to protect my hair. But now I plan on embracing the beauty of my hair and doing whatever I want, and whatever I think is necessary to help it while looking absolutely gorgeous while doing it, no matter what these "friends" think about it.

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