I moved to Minneapolis last May and for the first time in my life I've felt like I have finally been in a place where I belong. Although I can't say that I have things completely figured out... I have come to know more about myself and what I want to do with my life over the past 8 months than I have over the better portion of my life. Coming to South Africa has been a valuable step in the process of where I want my life to go. I have learned things here about community (ubuntu), forgiveness, and lived experience that will be a part of who I am for the rest of my journey here on earth. This has definitely been a profound part of my lived experience.
But I have been struggling the last few days not only with feeling a disconnection to the initial inspiration that I felt when I first arrived here, but also with the inspiration and connectedness that I have felt since moving to Minneapolis. Although I haven't exactly been questioning my decision to be a part of the Youth Studies program at the University of Minnesota and to end up working with young people, I have found myself questioning my intentions and also how I could possibly impact young people in positive ways.
I am constantly having to check my own inner processes of 'othering' certain groups of young people and young people as a group in general. I have to check my desire to make these groups more like me by forcing them to adhere to the ridiculous standards of society that have been built upon a racist system. It saddens me that my mind cannot automatically think openly and that I need to go through the process of acknowledging my own white privilege and the systems of racism set up in the United States on a very constant basis. I wish that my mind could automatically think of all people as equal and that it could immediately recognize the flaws of society that instead have been embedded into who I am.
I go through moments on a very consistent basis where I realize my own tendencies of 'othering' and racism and thus feel completely hopeless that I could possibly make a difference in this world if I cannot even change my own bad habits and thought processes. I wonder if my intentions in entering a world where I can work with young people are on track or misguided. These moments of doubt are what fuels my moments of disconnect like I have had recently.
But it seems that just when I start feeling complete hopelessness, then something or somebody touches my life in a way that I am rejuvenated and that strengthens the faith that I have in myself and the world around me. In class today, we discussed how we can take what we have been learning and use it in our lives once we return home. Our discussion was absolutely inspirational. I am in constant awe of the deep intellect of my peers. But I am also in awe of my own inner voice that speaks to me in situations such as our discussion in class today. When discussing whether or not we could use a process of truth and reconciliation within the United States to change our societal systems that are built and run on racism, many of my classmates voiced their frustration with the U.S.'s capitalist approach to life and how it would likely be impossible to change people. I found my inner voice telling me that although the situation seems hopeless at times, I truly do believe that change is possible. Moreover, I feel that change can and will start with our young people.
As I sat there wondering how I could reach young people and help them see that they need to be the advocates for change, I felt the answer could be found in how we educate and bring awareness to the youth of America. This is where people like me come in. My role will be to support youth where they need to be supported... to earn their trust... to learn from them... but to also help them to see what it means to be aware. From there... the young people will take their awareness and change the world. I believe in their ability and strength to take on the world in a positive way. They may just need help to see the world as it really is... and not as how media and society depicts it.
So once again, I know why I want to be a Youth Studies major and what I want to do with my life of working with youth. I want to support them and to help them to become aware of the world around them so that they can take that and bring about change. This is what I want to dedicate my life to.