I Wore A Black Lives Matter Shirt At My Conservative University

I Wore A Black Lives Matter Shirt At My Conservative University

And this is what happened.
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First of all, I go to Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. It's an ever-growing university about 3 hours from DC with over 15,000 residential students and 94,000+ online students.

It is both the largest private, non-profit university and the largest Christian university in the world.

Also, much like it's founder Jerry Falwell Sr., Liberty University is distinctly a Conservative university. In addition, it is mostly composed of White students.

Given recent events and the media coverage regarding Black Lives Matter, I was very curious to see how people would react to a student walking around a Conservative university with a Black Lives Matter shirt.

In all honesty, I thought I would get quite a bit of negative feedback for wearing the shirt. Based on social media interactions, my theory was that more people at this Conservative university would be openly against it than in favor.

Surprisingly, I got much more positive feedback than negative feedback!

The Negative:

The majority of negative feedback I got for the shirt came in the form of eye-rolls, avoidance, and even a few "death glares" (when someone looks at you as if you did something terrible).

Some of the bigger negative feedbacks I received were through jokes and sarcasm.

One person saw the shirt and "jokingly" stated, "Aww, we can't be friends now, dude." Another said, "Of course you would wear that shirt (I am a Latino and he was alluding to my minority status)." One friend even stated that he would have burned the shirt had he known about it.

Surprisingly, no one brought up AllLivesMatter which I consider a good thing.

The Positive:

To my surprise, quite a lot of students actually gave "small" gestures of approval. From an "I like your shirt" to even thumbs up and a high five.

Others were more lively about it. One girl saw the shirt and stated it was great to finally see someone step up for this cause and that she wanted a shirt herself.

Another person asked me about the shirt and after a brief conversation said that he agreed it was time to stop and make this statement because Black people for the most part haven't been treated as if they matter as much as everyone else.

The Coincidence Turned Opportunity:

Time before I got the shirt, I had planned to meet up with a close friend of mine for dinner. Coincidentaly, that day ended up being the one I wore the shirt (which was the day right after I got the shirt in the mail). Also coincidentaly, my friend (who is White) wants to go into law enforcement to be a cop.

We met up for dinner like we planned and it was clear that he saw the shirt and was rather shocked at first, but made no mention of it and so we went on normally.

As we are catching up after such a long while, he indirectly brings up the subject referring to "all that's happening in the US right now".

That sentence lead to 2 and a half hours of one of the most open-hearted conversations I have had the priviledge of having with someone. We didn't argue or fight, we didn't even get defensive (which is hard not to do when two opposing views collide). Instead, we both looked to understand and try to empathize to each other.

I started by asking what he thought about all that had happened and what he tought was the problem. He opened up as a friend on the concern of wanting to be a good officer and at the same time of being threathened and having to defend himself.

He then asked what I thought about it. I explained that as a minority (Latino) I know what racism is like and I gave him examples of how fellow student and myself have to deal with it often, even at Liberty.

I'll probably write another article on this conversation because it was so packed. In the end, we both saw some flaws and weaknesses on both sides and in the way we work as a society in general. But we were able to see eye-to-eye in the end.

The key was that we were both able to put aside our assumptions through taking the time to understand each other and empathize with each other's situations. We left as stronger friends than before and encouraged.

The Big Encouragement:

Not 6 minutes after my 2 and a half hour-long dinner with my friend I walked into the library and was signaled down by a girl.

I found it odd, but when I walked up to this young White girl her eyes were glowing. She said that it was the first time she saw anyone on campus with a shirt like mine and that she found it very encouraging to see that I was stepping up for a cause I believed in.

Her first question was why did I wear the shirt or what does Black Lives Matter mean to me.

She admitted that she doesn't really know where she stands on the subject. She continued to tell me about what she was seeing from her friends and social media against it while also recognizing that something bothered her about it all. She was realizing that there was a real problem that wasn't being properly adressed.

She wanted to learn more. After learning about my Latino background and hearing of both my testimony on the subject and part of the conversation I had with my friend a few minutes earlier her face changed.

It was as if she had been shown a different side of the situation she had not grasped before. A face of. "How did I not see this before?" More importantly, she could empathize with what I was saying.

We both left very encouraged from that 30 minute conversation. She stated she was encouraged because she was able to understand the root of the problem from a first-hand experience and I left encourage because someone decided to talk and understand.

What I Want You To Take:

I had an entirely different expectation of what would happen that day. I expected negative reactions yet I left more encouraged and hopeful than when I ordered the shirt.

One thing I want to highlight before I finish is that I noticed a majority of White students had positive reactions rather than negative ones.

This, in addition to the previous two conversations, gives me hope that people are realizing that there is a problem and that we should address it.

Who knows how many other conversations got started on the subject because someone saw the shirt...

Nevertheless, I learned is that there is hope for change and we can be a part of it.

Start the conversation, be the difference.

Cover Image Credit: Huffington Post

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A Senior's Last Week Of High School

The bittersweet end.
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Well, this is it. This is what we've worked so hard the last four years - who am I kidding - basically what seems like our whole lives for. This is the very last week we will set foot as a student in our high school's hallways. As most schools are getting ready to set their seniors free at last, it all begins to set in - the excitement, the anxiousness, and also the sentiment and nostalgia.

For seniors, the years since our first day as a freshman at the bottom of the high school totem pole have seemed endless, but as we look back on these last few weeks, we realize that this year in particular has gone by extraordinarily fast. It was just yesterday that we were sitting in our classrooms for the very first time, going to our 'last first' practice, and getting our first taste of the (very real) "senioritis". With all that's going on in our lives right now, from sports and clubs, finals, and the sought after graduation ceremony, it's hard to really sit down and think about how our lives are all about to become drastically different. For some it's moving out, and for some it's just the thought of not seeing your best friend on the way to fourth period English; either way, the feels are real. We are all in a tug of war with the emotions going on inside of us; everything is changing - we're ready, but we're not.

THE GOOD. Our lives are about to begin! There is a constant whirlwind of excitement. Senior awards, getting out of school early, parties, and of course Graduation. We are about to be thrust into a world of all new things and new people. Calling our own shots and having the freedom we have so desperately desired since the teenage years began is right around the corner. Maybe the best part is being able to use these new things surrounding you to grow and open your mind and even your heart to ideas you never could before. We get the chance to sink or swim, become our own person, and really begin to find ourselves.

Things we don't even know yet are in the works with new people we haven't even met yet. These friendships we find will be the ones to last us a lifetime. The adventures we experience will transform into the advice we tell our own children and will become the old tales we pass down to our grandkids when they come to visit on the weekends. We will probably hate the all night study sessions, the intensity of finals week, and the overpowering stress and panic of school in general, just like we did in high school... But it will all be worth it for the memories we make that will outlive the stress of that paper due in that class you absolutely hate. As we leave high school, remember what all the parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors are telling you - this are the best times of our lives!

THE BAD. The sentimental emotions are setting in. We're crying, siblings are tearing up, and parents are full-out bawling. On that first day, we never expected the school year to speed by the way it did. Suddenly everything is coming to an end. Our favorite teachers aren't going to be down the hall anymore, our best friends probably won't share a class with us, we won't be coming home to eat dinner with our families...

We all said we wanted to get out of this place, we couldn't wait, we were ready to be on our own; we all said we wouldn't be "so emotional" when the time came, but yet here we are, wishing we could play one more football game with our team or taking the time to make sure we remember the class we liked the most or the person that has made us laugh even when we were so stressed we could cry these past few years. Take the time to hug your parents these last few months. Memorize the facial expressions of your little sister or brother. Remember the sound of your dad coming home from work. These little things we take for granted every day will soon just be the things we tell our college roommate when they ask about where we're from. As much as we've wanted to get out of our house and our school, we never thought it would break our heart as much as it did. We are all beginning to realize that everything we have is about to be gone.

Growing up is scary, but it can also be fun. As we take the last few steps in the hallways of our school, take it all in. Remember, it's okay to be happy; it's okay to be totally excited. But also remember it's okay to be sad. It's okay to be sentimental. It's okay to be scared, too. It's okay to feel all these confusing emotions that we are feeling. The best thing about the bittersweet end to our high school years is that we are finally slowing down our busy lives enough to remember the happy memories.

Try not to get annoyed when your mom starts showing your baby pictures to everyone she sees, or when your dad starts getting aggravated when you talk about moving out and into your new dorm. They're coping with the same emotions we are. Walk through the halls remembering the classes you loved and the classes you hated. Think of the all great times that have happened in our high school years and the friends that have been made that will never be forgotten. We all say we hated school, but we really didn't. Everything is about to change; that's a happy thing, and a sad thing. We all just have to embrace it! We're ready, but we're not...

Cover Image Credit: Facebook

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'The Farewell' Brings An Asian-American Narrative To Hollywood

I've never imagined that a story like this would make its way to Hollywood, and it's definitely a welcome change.

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The trailer for Lulu Wang's "The Farewell" was recently released. The film, based on Wang's own experience, stars Awkwafina as Billi, a Chinese-American woman who travels to China after learning her grandmother has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. "The Farewell" initially debuted at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival in January, and currently holds a rating of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

"The Farewell" is an exciting film for members of the Asian-American community, as it encompasses many of our own experiences in having family overseas. Having this Asian-American narrative portrayed in Hollywood is especially groundbreaking and important to the community. "Crazy Rich Asians" has received much well-deserved acclaim for its leap in Asian representation, but the film did not necessarily depict a completely relatable experience and was only one story out of many in the Asian-American community. There were aspects of the characters' cultures that allowed the Asian-American audience to connect with much of the film, but the upper-class narrative wasn't quite as accessible to everyone.

While "Crazy Rich Asians" portrays Asians in a way that is very much uncommon in Hollywood and American media in general and had a hand in helping to break stereotypes, "The Farewell" introduces a nearly universal first-generation American or immigrant narrative to Hollywood. In doing so, the film allows many members of the Asian-American community to truly see their own experiences and their own stories on the screen.

For me, the trailer alone was enough to make me tear up, and I've seen many other Asian Americans share a similar experience in seeing the trailer. The film reminds us of our own families, whether it's our grandparents or any other family living overseas. I've never imagined that a story like this would make its way to Hollywood, and it's definitely a welcome change.

"The Farewell," which is scheduled for release on July 12, 2019, depicts a family dynamic in the Asian-American experience that hits home for many, including myself. The initial critical response, especially towards Awkwafina's performance, is certainly promising and will hopefully motivate more Asian-American and other minority filmmakers to bring their own stories to Hollywood.

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