By Nica Sy
Since I was young, I knew that my future would involve working to create a more equal and just society. At age 11, I joined Bishop Carcaño and Jan Love in St. Louis to walk for immigrant rights; at 12 I gathered my classmates to volunteer our time at Northwest Harvest; at 14 I learned to organize others to make school kits for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). I grew up in a United Methodist household and I am a third-generation member of the United Methodist Women. With this kind of family history, one would think that speaking out against injustice would be in my blood. But as I got older, my voice did not seem as loud. Entering young adulthood brought on shoes that I was uncertain I could fill. I soon realized that echoing the words of my mom and grandma at UMW events was no longer an option. As a young woman, I was unsure of how to stand on my own and speak my own truths.
My first few years of high school were easy to get through by ignoring the issues that continued to brew in our country. Burying my head in books, while essential to my success in school, gave me an easy excuse to stay uninvolved. However, as tensions in the US grew, the problems we faced became harder and harder for me to avoid. I couldn’t just ignore the news while government officials, those who are supposed to represent our beliefs, condemned Americans with xenophobic, homophobic and transphobic rhetoric. I couldn’t scroll past the Facebook updates about yet another innocent victim of horrific police brutality. But even after I became aware of these injustices, I still couldn’t find a way to speak out. My voice, which I was used to being a shout, had dwindled down to a whisper in my head. Ignoring the fire inside me continued to be easier than speaking out and making myself vulnerable.
I think my fear in speaking out was born from a fear of not being an expert. Having a voice gave others the ability to scrutinize me for what I say, and I was afraid of not knowing how to respond. Even now, as I write this, my brain is saying, “ABORT! ABORT!”, knowing that there must be a name, a date, or a detail that I don’t know. The reality is, there will always be something I don’t know. There will always be more to learn, but that shouldn’t stop me from speaking out about what I know is right: to stop violence that I know is wrong. After the events that occurred at the Unite the Right rally-turned-riot in Charlottesville, Virginia, I know now that ignoring the problem is no longer an option. I know that fear can no longer control my voice. This is where I start.
Racism has no place in this country or in this world. White supremacy has no place in the United States, a country built on the backs of immigrants. Now is not the time to ignore the problem until it “goes away”, as it only gets bigger. Now is the time for us, as members of The United Methodist Church, to show that we will not sit on the sidelines and allow marginalized communities to be discriminated against. Now is the time for us to show that love will always conquer hate. I know that to do this work, I must start with myself. I must seek ways to educate myself on social issues, with sources outside of my social media feed. I must find the voices that will not only help me to know, but will help me to understand. My fear of speaking out for justice may never completely go away, but I will continue to fight that fear because I know there are much bigger things at stake.
Nica Sy is a young person and a member of Seattle: Beacon UMC.