Next steps to greater awareness

One of our favorite things to do here at #unitecloud is speak to students, giving them tools to stand up against hate, and allowing them to share their stories with their classmates of what they’ve witnessed and what they themselves have been through. This year, we were invited to speak to a class at St. Cloud State University, after which the students did a self reflection paper on our levels (Moving from Indifference to Action) and responding to either attending a #unitecloud event or reading on of our blogs. We are excited to share a few of the student’s papers of the next couple of months:)
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I have always had a ‘take care of others’ complex; some say I’m motherly and others say I just care about people too much. I’ve always made an effort to stand up for others, along with making sure everyone’s voice is heard. My parents have raised me to respect others no matter what; even when others not so respectful. Through #unitecloud’s visit to my class at SCSU, I’ve learned more about the meaning of community and more about myself.

As #unitecloud’s presentation began, we went over the definition of Xenophobia; which was defined as the dislike of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange.

After being introduced to these different levels of taking a stand against xenophobia, the class was able to dive into a deep discussion. Some students bought up their personal experiences on dealing with xenophobia. One student discussed her experience in high school; she was one of the Somali students that walked out of Saint Cloud Tech High School. This student told us about the bullying and degrading words that other students would say as they passed her in the halls. She explained that she did not feel welcomed or in a safe place at school, so a group of students decided they needed to make a stand against xenophobia and walk out of the school to make a point. As I was listening to this experience, I was filled with mixed emotions; I was excited to know that students will stand up for themselves, but also angry that these students experienced this. As a future teacher, it shakes my core to know that educators did not make the maximum effort to take care of ALL students.

As the conversation continued, we broke into groups and discussed some personal experiences. I discussed a specific situation I watched unfold in the Saint Cloud Mall. My boyfriend and I were walking through the mall when we heard a shout. A man proclaimed, “Did you just say you’ll kill me?” This older white male was yelling at a group of young African American boys. As this conversation continued, the older man proclaimed that he was going to call security to take care of the situation.

Security then arrived and told the young boys to move on and go about their shopping. Then, the security guard talked to the angry man and escorted him off the premise. I know that it was not good of me to just stand there and watch but I felt like it was not my place to step in. This man was unreasonable, he has his mind set on his ways. However, I regret not taking the time to say something. I have no idea what I would of said but I felt like I should have said something.

As I reflected about where I could be on the levels of standing up against xenophobia, I feel that I’m in between some of the levels. I take the time to get more educated about different cultures, I also believe in letting people be themselves. I’m learning more and I’m making an effort to stand up against xenophobia.

For my class assignment, I read the blog called “ I Choose Hope.” For me, this was a very interesting read, because I grew up in a family that was very religious, just like the blog author, who said, “As a child my only interaction with the world happened at church, Girl Scouts and the local Christian homeschool community. It wasn’t until my mother put me into the St. Cloud public school system in 3rd grade that I met people with different worldviews from myself.” To me this stood out because my parents pushed me to live a Christian life style. As I have grown up, my views about religion have changed, which is a similar experience to the writer of the blog. I really appreciated that the author mentioned that their faith is personal, that it cannot shape anyone else and that religion can not be forced on anyone. It was inspiring to read that the writer is able to choose love and hope through her connection with religion.

Throughout this experience I was exposed to an overwhelming amount of knowledge. I’ve learned that there are different levels of standing up against xenophobia. Through reflecting on where I fit into the scale, I’ve learned that I’m actively expanding my knowledge about different cultures, yet I’m still unable to confront someone. I’ve also learned more about religion and choosing to find the good in people. Because of this process, I’m able to walk away with knowledge that I hopefully am able to share with others.