Before I went on this eye-opening journey, I was like any other teenager who thought they knew everything. Sometimes, we just don’t realize how much our environment shapes our beliefs.
I immigrated to Seattle from the Philippines when I was 6. I saw myself as an independent girl who didn’t follow the norms or belong to any cliques at school, so I felt I was different from everyone else. But when it came to social justice issues, I believed almost the same things as everyone else in my class.
I thought I knew it all when my class discussed social issues, but an argument with my dad last summer proved me wrong.
Last summer in a college prep class, my teacher told us to go online and share any kind of article about the shooting of Alton Sterling in Louisiana. It was to raise awareness about police brutality because we were working on a spoken word poem, so that’s exactly what I did.
But, here was my mistake. Any time a tragic event happened, like Sterling’s shooting or the Orlando shooting, the first place I would find out about it was on Facebook. I thought Buzzfeed, Upworthy and the Huffington Post were all credible sources. I thought Fox News was the only one that was biased. I thought any post on Facebook was good enough.
I was wrong.
That day, I went home and told my dad about Sterling.
My dad replied in Vietnamese, "There has to be a reason for someone to do that. No cop would just suddenly shoot someone."
I got mad at him for saying something so ridiculous. They were obviously racist, how could he not see that? I told him he didn’t know anything about America’s history with racism and oppression.
I wanted to prove him wrong, so I decided to look it up on Google myself. After this, I began to question the credibility of my sources. I always based my opinions off of social justice lessons in class. I had no real-life evidence of my own to back it up, while my dad’s opinion was based on his own experiences in Vietnam, the Philippines, and now here in America.
"In Vietnam it’s different," he said. "We can’t argue and speak up. We have to listen to what others say. In the Philippines it’s free, but you need money. Then you can say whatever you want. Over here in America anything you say is set in place, lawful, documented. Everything has law involved."
I was boiling with anger, shocked at how a person would think America is always fair and equal. But I reconsidered his experiences. Was I the one misinformed? Do I trust his experiences or textbook analysis?
Currently, I am more confused than ever. Who is telling the truth? The meaning of ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ is not definite. It’s important to know the facts first and then respond to them, rather than over-reacting. Take everything with a grain of salt.
It’s easy for anyone to color a story with their own fears, bias, and even peer pressure.
This story was created in RadioActive Youth Media's 2017 After-School Workshop for high school students at New Holly in partnership with Seattle Housing Authority. Listen to RadioActive stories, subscribe to the RadioActive podcast and stay in touch on Facebook and Twitter.