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BLACK LIVES MATTER: Karen Phan Seeks Answers To Complex Questions

By Emily Clark
Wicked Local South/Mariner, Marshfield, Mass.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Karen Phan created undertherock.squarespace.com to give light to social issues and history that people may not be aware of. The platform contains sections devoted to the history of the Wampanoags, The 1619 Project, as well as the women’s suffrage movement.

Plymouth

“As a part of Diversity Committee and as a student representative to the School Committee, this website I created, undertherock.squarespace.com, means a lot to me.

“During quarantine I had so much time to reflect. There’s a lot of things going on. As a member of this community, I still wanted to stay active even outside of the academic environment. I decided to create a space to pour my ideas in which started with my own personal website where I gathered dynamic resources I found online for the youth. My goal was to achieve something that was aesthetically pleasing while being easy to read and learn from.

“With COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter movement the world has become more chaotic, yet ever-changing. You’re getting different opinions and sides to the arguments which became increasingly overwhelming, for a teenager.

Yet I felt inspired by listening to Black voices. Personally, I can never speak for an African American. I can never experience what they experience — having to struggle to have the same privileges because of your skin color.

Following up to the vigil, I spiraled into creating Under the Rock. We wanted to do a follow up for the vigil. I was a student speaker there. At the vigil, there were a lot of mixed feelings. We were all anxious. We had seen the rioters and uprising of white supremacy. Non-violent protesting does not involve looting stores or violence in any form. It’s in the name.

When we decided to bring protesting to Plymouth, I wanted to be a part of it. “Unfortunately, our history is rooted in racism. It’s not something we acknowledge. We do the opposite. We celebrate the 400th anniversary and say we’re America’s Hometown. I do not want, you, as the reader, to interpret what I am saying as a negative connotation. It’s just the way Americans are. How we redefine and create new traditions is by recognizing our legacy and what it looked like for each individual, not from one point of view.

For example, when the first 20 enslaved African Americans arrived in America on Aug. 20, 1619 on the same ship alongside the colonists, those slaves were not there for the same reasons as the colonists. The colonists were there searching for freedom while keeping captives. Racism was the stepping stone in building our country; that is why it’s been so normalized. It’s not normal. We’re praising equality for all when all are not equal in this country. All citizens are not treated and honored as equal to one another.

These laws of equality are only as effective as Americans honor them.
“The Black Lives Matter movement is important to me, which is why I chose to speak on it. By doing so I’m using both my privilege and platform to give light to social issues, and the extensive history that is there to learn while encouraging people to do the same.

Education is so important because so many social injustices and micro-aggressions are swept under the rug.

“In response to the pandemic I developed the website as a way of contactless learning, and it has a QR code in which you use your mobile camera to scan and be able to access without breaking social distancing regulations. Old and young — we both are adapting to technology as a way to be contactless. Under the Rock is like an online brochure with all these resources. There are sections devoted to the Wampanoags, The 1619 Project, which is dedicated to sharing history about the beginnings of slavery in America. It’s super informative and all about relearning American History and especially Plymouth history and about women’s suffrage, when women had to fight for the right to vote. The common theme here is uplifting voices.

The right to vote for women was a huge accomplishment which deserves just as much attention as well. I am hoping this way of sharing and broadening our historical background works for all ages as it’s a new and versatile solution during a pandemic.

“As an Asian American, I have experienced racism both as a kid and well, always. In kindergarten, my peers would pull their eyes back and mock me.

I just didn’t understand what they were doing. From my personal experience, I remember how humiliating it was. People knew I was different, they had to point it out, and that really stuck with me.

“Years later, I am a victim of the model minority. I know what it’s like to be oppressed by a system and having to prove myself as what America considers the ‘best minority,’ which is just disheartening. Nobody should have to prove themselves. The categorizing of people based on their ethnicity is like a modern hierarchy.

“Meanwhile, there are so many interesting facets and quirks that define different groups and are culturally beautiful. That is what we should celebrate and teach future generations to love about one another.

“As far as Black Lives Matter, in a perfect world, I envision equity and kindness. I think in a perfect world, we would uplift African American women, children, and men to their best potential. At the end of the day, everyone has their own idea of what they believe is a perfect world. The conflict we are witnessing between people shows the differences in our values but it shouldn’t be an argument whether or not people deserve human rights or the chance to have equal opportunities.

“What Black Lives Matter means to me is it’s the right thing to do. It’s a human rights issue unfortunately with political entanglements. Our rights are defined by a document under amendments. Therefore, to fix the problem we must face the politics as well. When referencing the phrases ‘All lives matter’ or ‘Blue lives matter,’ of course they do; that’s not what the BLM movement is about. It’s advocating to acknowledge the broken systems that African Americans face and then to look at ways to fix it even if it means breaking it down to rebuild a better one in its place. My rebuttal would be that all lives don’t matter until Black lives do, and to ignore the injustices of bail bonds and redlining is counterproductive towards BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) and the movement.

“I’ve heard people say that George Floyd didn’t have a good background, so it doesn’t matter how he died. [Floyd was suspected of passing counterfeit money.] He was a person too. People are not focusing on the philosophy of what we are fighting for. They’re in it for the details to justify that they would never have to care about this issue because it never have applied to them in the first place. In addition, the people you should trust the most to enforce laws meant to protect you should not be the same ones you fear.

“In the past few months it’s clear that there is a chasm of miscommunication. By aggressively rejecting someone else’s opinion results in fueling hate, cleaving a division between people. We need to connect one on one instead. Tell why you don’t believe this, or why you support an ideology different from mine so I can understand you. The complexity of politics challenges ethics and morals. We need to talk about that.

“Returning to the discussion on slavery, the root of country has always been profit. I may be 17, but it’s never too late to recognize the behavior of capitalizing on human rights such as healthcare and education stems from greed. The wealth of colonizers accumulated because of slave labor — that is the dirty money that circulates the modern market run by the same systems for the same people.

“I feel like teenagers today are more politically and socially aware. We are questioning ourselves and the systems meant for us to grow into. We don’t have the answers, but we’re seeking them. When we do it will be a different world.”
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Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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