Election season brings chance for campus unity

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COURTESY PHOTO / WM.EDU

At 2 a.m. local time in Beijing, China last week, I was still up watching the election coverage. With finals approaching and facing a tight election, expressos and monster drinks became my friends.

You ask, why did I, as an international student, pay so much attention to the United States president election? You ask, why am I, a foreigner, dedicating so much time to US politics? You ask, why am I, a College of William and Mary freshman, talking about the seemingly far future instead of studying for finals. The message is loud and clear: the election mattered, and it has sweeping ramifications for our lives.

Ironically, during the short few months since I have been studying remotely, I witnessed things that I have never seen when I was in high school in Alabama. People have become more divisive than ever in key issues like medical care, abortion, immigration and equality. Through the screen, I saw my friends’ cars being vandalized; through my computer, I saw people unfriending each other only because of disagreements on policies. Now, even science is being challenged.

These divisions are reflected too well on our campus. You don’t have to be there to know. As an “outsider,” I have seen enough drama. The vandalizing, the name-calling, the memes and the glory-hole article are all a lot to digest. We seem to no longer be able to be friends if we disagree politically. This is because human lives and racial justice are on the line this time.

“The international community is standing with our friends.”

When a high school friend told me that her boyfriend’s dad had passed away because of COVID-19, I realized the severity of the virus. I have been praying for my American friends since day one. Although lacking in transparency, our school has enforced stringent rules. The international community is standing with our friends.

“My parents allowed me to come to or stay in the US only because our school has handled it ok.” This resonates well with our international community. Seeing friends and teachers sing wearing colorful and fashionable masks, I am confident that we will eventually prevail. Unlike some of the state schools I knew, masks and social distancing have become a beautiful sight to witness on campus. I am eternally grateful on how our Student Assembly and students are taking all the precautions there are to protect those that are vulnerable. Every one of you, in my opinion, are heroes.

Two months ago, there was an opinions article on The Flat Hat. A student at the College’s law school demanded that the university’s Chinese Students and Scholars Association chapter register as a foreign agent. He had provided evidence from other schools that those local organizations were guilty of crimes. However, with closer inspection, he had failed to provide concrete and damning evidence indicating our chapter is doing these activities. As a racial minority with Mongolian and Chinese heritage, I understand the pain through which minorities go, and I am firmly against any forms of oppression. I am happy to stand out to promote both my Mongolian and Chinese cultures. We, the minorities on campus, should unite together to shape a better future.

Sir, your baseless accusations have caused great pain in the Chinese community. It occurs to me that you had implied many of the Chinese international students on campus are spies for the CCP. This is not the first time, unfortunately, that I was called a spy. Simply being darker-complexioned and black-eyed are sufficient. I do not care, like many fellow minorities, if I am being called names. But coming for our community? It is totally unacceptable. My non-Chinese Asian friends had experienced this as much as I did. However, blame games are the last thing we need now. Let’s bridge our differences and unload our prejudices.

Similarly, I want to pursue a career in law as well in the future. My American dream is to graduate from law school and work at the American Civil Liberties Union as a human rights lawyer, because my dream, sir, is to uphold justice for minorities, not antagonizing them. Some people are likely working for The Flat Hat so that they may become journalists like Weijia Jiang, who is a proud College alum, in the future. They value facts. Five years ago, when I came to America, instead of other countries like the United Kingdom or Australia, they told me America is a diverse and tolerant home for everyone. After the incident, many of you spoke out against xenophobia and racism. It is your activism that keeps our campus my home. It is your advocacy that protects us from harassment. I wish I could hug you all now. But virtual hugs will have to do.

“Whether you are conservative, liberal or independent, we all belong to one family. I remember during my remote student orientation, we watched a video featuring the idea of “One Tribe, One Family,” let’s make that a reality.”

Throughout the semester, many twamps have stood for us international students, just like they have for the athletic teams. You all have helped us out whenever we need you. You all talk to us, practice English with us, and make life-long friends with us. Thank you all for taking a stance and reaching out to make us feel at home. When our SA leadership sent out the pre-election video, I cried. Not only because I was stressed out, but because I was deeply touched by the kindness.

Sentences like “Darn, I am so freaking stressed out and I don’t know what to do,” “I am literally crying, help,” “Why can’t they finish counting already?” seemed ubiquitous last week as we anxiously awaited election results. But there is always hope, and it has been delivered. Now, as we are into the post-partisan era, we as a community should begin to heal. Although as indicated in the “Swampy Memes For Twampy Teens” page, we were still surrounded by a great fire as we voted, we also can see hope. We should have a mutual understanding that human lives are valued and that racism has no place on this campus. Whether you are conservative, liberal or independent, we all belong to one family. I remember during my remote student orientation, we watched a video featuring the idea of “One Tribe, One Family,” let’s make that a reality.

I demand the school to create more opportunities for different groups to sit down and engage in candid conversations. The famous Chinese proverb goes “When brothers come together, there is nothing they cannot achieve.” Let’s make love, not wars.

Email Sailor Miao at ymiao04@email.wm.edu.