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Speak Your Truth    

Speak Your Truth

BY SARA SHOKOUHI

Artwork by Lauren Martin

In the past week I have felt anger, frustration, confusion, exhaustion, deep sadness, and everything in between. My heart aches for the black community and my black brothers and sisters. 

I have felt discrimination being a person of color, minority, and a child of immigrants.

I have also felt privilege because of the lightness of my skin. 

I know I would not have been invited into certain rooms if my skin pigmentation was darker. 

I know that I don’t know what it feels like to be scared of a group of people whose job description is to protect me. 

I do not know what that deep, genuine fear for my life feels like. And I never will. 

I was raised as a first generation Iranian-American by immigrant parents that were incredibly open minded. I was lucky enough to grow up in Southern California where I was surrounded by so much diversity and color. 

But even so, I was never the first choice for my white peers. I was always looked at a little differently. Because of this, my friend groups growing up were always full of different colors. We just felt a little more comfortable there. When I was the only person of color in a room, I couldn’t help but feel a touch out of place. I always noticed that my ethnicity was swept under the rug. Didn’t matter. Wasn’t relevant. But I never wanted anyone to tell me they don’t see my color. Because that was telling me that my culture doesn’t mean anything to them; that I’m just like the white girl sitting next to you. 

To not acknowledge my race is to stifle me. To be ignorant to my background is to oppress me. The most powerful thing you can do, as a human being, is to see my color, hear my story, and acknowledge our differences. Only then can you appreciate and celebrate diversity. Only then will you learn to see the injustices that people of color face and how to stand up for them.

The interesting thing about being a child of immigrants is that our family members did not grow up seeing as much diversity in the countries they came from. 

For some of our mothers and fathers and uncles and aunts, it was their first time seeing a black individual when they immigrated to the U.S. at 22 years old. For some of them, they carried the narrative of institutional racism in dehumanizing black populations that they were taught in their home countries. With that came some serious culture shock and learned prejudices from stepping down into a nation that already views black people’s lives as less than. 

It is not our responsibility to only unwrite the prejudices of white people. Other cultures of color do not get a pass just because we have some spice to us. To an extent, we have a deeper responsibility to members of our own communities to learn, unlearn, and raise awareness on how to better show up for the black community.

To me, this starts by explaining to my 75 year old Iranian uncle that Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean all other lives don’t. That saying “All Lives Matter” misses the point. Because I know our love for each other can help us see love for others. My uncle might not listen to the individuals raising their voices on social media, but he would hear me out. Because if I so choose to raise my voice where I know someone who values what I have to say is listening, I have a better chance of instilling change.

That is why I believe we need to humanize this as much as possible. Use your voice. Online and offline. Donate, sign the petitions, call your representatives, amplify black voices, call out injustice where you see it, start conversations with the people around you who value your voice. In whatever way you deem to be most effective, just speak. We all have a responsibility. 

I must defend the black culture I celebrate everyday. Whose influence blooms deep admiration and creativity. Whose moves I emulate when I dance. Whose style I draw inspiration from when I design and get dressed. Whose lyrics I sing when I feel empowered. Whose voice I listen to when I need strength. Whose people I turn to for love, friendship, support, and community. 

This isn’t about me. This isn't about you. It’s bigger than us. It’s about our black brothers and sisters who have given so much but have received so little in return. It’s about showing up. Acknowledging that we still have so much to learn and still have work to do. It is no longer enough to not be racist. We have to be actively anti racist. It’s time for us to do better. It’s time for our action to align with our admiration. Because all lives will not matter, until black lives matter. 

Because if I so choose to raise my voice where I know someone who values what I have to say is listening, I have a better chance of instilling change.