Wednesday, November 9, 2016

An open letter to students: Tear down the Great Wall of Ignorance, reasoned discourse, voice for the voiceless, privileged and minorities working together

To my fellow students:

Like many of you, I have mixed to negative feelings about what happened on the election night. Upon the election of a businessman from New York who caused a stir with his words and actions from the past, I became concerned that some of my friends, especially immigrants, would be in a disadvantage for years to come.

However, I believe that this should not be a cause to skip school, walk out of lectures, and just chant around campuses saying that we will not accept the president-elect to take the Oval Office. As students and intellectuals, we have the power and privilege to learn latest technologies and ideas, experiment with latest techniques, analyze information, and contribute to the political process through our voices and advocacy. Walking out of lectures just because our favorite candidate did not win is, to me, a disgrace to our forefathers who fought for universal suffrage to come to life, who fought for democratic process to take shape via reasoned dialogue, and saw long-term implications of student movements and laid the foundation to privileges we enjoy in 2016.

I believe that there are other ways of helping those in need, particularly those we feel would be disadvantaged in the future. Certainly we can go and embrace minorities, we can assist immigrants with advice, and can formulate changes through dialogue. As students, we are still learning, and we could use our intellectual capacity to inform and persuade the electorate. As students, we are given a mandate to learn principles and methods to guide the future generations. As students, we are given an opportunity to make a difference through reasoned discourse and critical analysis. As students, we are in a position of leadership to peacefully demand changes and let the new national leaders know that we are a force that cannot be ignored through reasoned advocacy. As students, we can serve as voice for the voiceless, champion for the oppressed, and participants in a historic moment to tear down the Great Wall of Ignorance.

To my fellow students who believe that they can exercise privilege to ignore minorities and partake in silent oppression: come, let us reason together. Bring your case, and students who have experienced oppression and ignorance can bring their case. Because of the physical and virtual wall called "ignorance and prejudice", you are creating a situation where America's progress has come to a halt. Please stop building this wall, or would-be partners (immigrants, minority students and others) will build a taller and thicker wall, thereby impairing America's capacity to recognize, accept, deal with, and move on from America's dark past of oppression and prejudice. Please learn while you are young, otherwise history will repeat itself. Learn while you can, because there will come a day in life where one cannot go back to change how things are then. You can, and you are more than capable of making a difference in making America great and whole again. As a student with disabilities and minority status, I offer you a hand in hopes that we can come together, embrace and work together to making this nation great again.

To my fellow students who were oppressed, ignored or prejudiced due to their minority status: do not pay back evil with evil, prejudice with prejudice, or ignorance with more ignorance. As much as those with privilege may have partaken in silent oppression, you are also responsible for partaking in divisions by building a thicker wall. Learn to have reasoned dialogues with others before it is too late. Represent the oppressed before it is taken away. You and the privileged have shared responsibility of kindling the fire of reconciliation, and even if it takes generations, be sure to let this flame going.

To all my fellow students, privileged, minority and what not: America is possible because we work together. America is possible because we are learning what to and not to do in the future. America is possible because we are united to make this nation better. America is possible because we are learning to reconcile our differences. America is possible because we have capacity to love, embrace and understand. America is possible because we can tear down the walls that separate us. America is possible because we can learn from mistakes of our forefathers together. America is possible because we can make history together. America is possible because we are building the future of this nation together. America is possible because we are all Americans - native or foreign-born, across race, ethnicity and cultures, different values and beliefs, all because we are created equal, endowed with vast freedom. All I, a fellow student with blindness and from a city with hundreds of diverse cultures, ask you to do is this: remember and learn from the glorious and dark past, reconcile the differences, and reach out to love, embrace, understand and work together. The future of this nation - from Washington to Honolulu and beyond - depends on us - students.

Thank you.

Joseph S. Lee
Los Angeles City College
November 9, 2016

An open letter to President-Elect (Donald Trump)

Dear Mr. President-Elect,

My name is Joseph Lee, a student at a community college in Los Angeles, California. First, congratulations on becoming the next leader of the United States of America, especially at a time when we are facing realities of fame, security, uncertainty and anxiety. As the president of a nation with global influence in freedom, education, military and culture, I wish you success in your endeavor in making America great again.

I'm writing this letter in hopes that you would consider praises and concerns of members of this nation in regards to the rule of law and respecting the oppressed. More importantly, I would like to bring up the sensitive issues of immigrants, people with disabilities, and ensuring that the essence of justice are practiced in your administration.

First, without immigrants, we could not witness United States becoming a superpower in education, culture and influence. More importantly, the history of United States began with immigrants - native Americans settling in vast plains of this land, immigrants coming to this continent seeking freedom from oppression, to the immigrants who crossed the ocean and land to seek new economic and social opportunities. As a 1.5 generation immigrant myself, I came to this land more than a decade ago in hopes of getting a better education and to seek opportunities for those like me with blindness and other disabilities.
However, some in this society would say that we immigrants are taking away valuable jobs and opportunities. I would like to challenge this by saying that some in our society may have forgotten the fact that their ancestors are immigrants as well, and the notion of nativism and superiority may have caused us to forget struggles of our parents and grandparents who had to go through nighttly shifts and harsh working conditions, knowing that, one day, their progeny would have a better life in this land they are living. Instead of giving opportunities to a group of future leaders whose children can shape politics at Washington, some have erected physical and virtual walls of ignorance, ethnocentrism, supremecy and denial. Once a land of opportunity to immigrants, this has become a land of oppression of aliens, especially those who can make America greater than before. Thus, I would like to sincerely request repeating an accomplishment from another outsider in the 1980's: please tear down the Great Wall that divided this nation and the world, this time the Great Wall of of Ignorance towards immigrants, otherwise the immigrant community will build a greater wall of ignorance.

Second, I am one of millions of Americans with disabilities. More than two decades ago, a landmark law passed the floor of the House of Representatives, confirmed by the Senate, and signed into law by the man who congratulated you upon elected. Whereas the conditions of Americans with disabilities has improved thanks to healthcare, technology and more opportunities, there are visible and unseen gaps between what I and other disabled Americans can achieve versus realities of ignorance, hate, denial and discrimination, particularly for many young people who would like to receive an opportunity to make America great again. In case of people with disabilities, we can help you achieve your goals by giving us directions and ways in which we can dutifully fulfill our rights as members of this society, including access to education, working towards reduced discrimination and ignorance, and listening to those in need and thinking about what can be done to make this nation great in terms of opening up opportunities to minorities such as Americans with various disabilities.

Speaking of minorities, I would like to stress that the optimal solution to making things work great is to use different parts to create a cohesive whole. In other words, just because some citizens are minorities does not mean they deserve oppression and injustice. One way to achieve your aim of making America great again is to listen to minorities, especially the members with little power who can offer great advice and who can show that they are more than capable of making your administration a success. Please do not turn away from them, especially those who can influence Washington to their will: children, students, professors, religious leaders, men and women with wisdom, and those who, if called, would be ready to reshape the capital in more than 700 days from now: the electorate with different backgrounds, beliefs, values and experiences. Also, please do not trump yourself above the law and justice: as the new leader, you are more than capable of showing three hundred million strong Americans and others watching around the globe that you are a model citizen, listening to the oppressed, caring for the weak, and to go down in history as a respected administrator.

In closing, I would like to offer two quotes that sums up the current state of affairs around this nation, something a war hero and later president rightfully said and did not live to see America become great a few decades later:

"The qualities of a great man are vision, integrity, courage, understanding, the power of articulation, and profundity of character. To be true to one's own freedom is, in essence, to honor and respect the freedom of all others."
- Dwight D. Eisenhower

Sincerely and with respect,
Joseph S. Lee
Los Angeles, CA
November 9, 2016