Student activism does not shut out other people’s voices. Instead, student organizing amplifies the voices of underrepresented students who have been ignored by administrations time and time again.
April 30 marked the 40th anniversary of what many of those in the Vietnamese diaspora refer to as the Fall of Saigon, or Black April as my generations tends to call it, recognizing that there was much more than one day, or one month of the hells of war. Every year, the Vietnamese Student Union’s Black April Commemoration seeks to commemorate the Vietnamese diaspora’s decision to leave the Vietnamese homeland in search of a better life.
During my junior year of high school, my friend Kimberly and I stood at a Walmart deciding whether or not we wanted to buy potato wedges from the deli and the ladies behind the cash register called us over. They asked us what ethnicity we were. “I’m Chinese and she’s Vietnamese,” I replied and they looked surprised.
How we call what is happening in Baltimore will affect how we perceive people who commit acts of violence to draw attention to their oppression. If language choice matters, then choosing between the word protest and riot in media headlines will sway public opinion about the unrest in Baltimore.
With the passing of the 23rd anniversary of the Los Angeles Riots on April 29, it is important to recall that these protests are not isolated instances, but rather examples of how race relations, socioeconomic conditions, and systematic oppression intersect in a way that allows urban communities to become the breeding ground for repeated protests against police brutality since the 1960s.
As a high school senior, I rolled my eyes when I first heard “Ching Chong Ling Long Ting Tong.” At the time, I did not fully realize the implications for the precedent set by Alexandra Wallace.