Why we’re done complaining

Two Journal staff members on campus attitudes toward racial minorities

Image by: Rowan LaCroix
Aysha and Sydney discuss the importance of productive conversation.

“I’m still angry after 19 years on Earth.

I’m angry every time someone has a conversation with my chest, or asks if my parents—who I assume they envision as Islamic tyrants—would be okay with me dressing provocatively. I’m angry every time I look at the sea of white faces surrounding me and question if I deserve anything I have, or if I’m just a token representing slow and meaningless change.

I’ll always be angry. I just wish people would stop mistaking my anger for misery.

For most of my life, coping with this anger involved me staying silent in an effort to convince myself that the oppression I faced only existed in my own head.

I came to Queen’s because I thought it would end my anger. I hoped immersing myself in a backwards-thinking university would prepare me for a lifetime of charging forward despite insurmountable barriers in my path.

Being thrown into this conservative environment drove me to accept that my anger didn’t make me a ‘complainer.’ It meant that I needed and deserved change, and it was a relief to admit that to myself.

Instead of staying quiet, I decided to write articles, participate in debates, and funnel all my energy into convincing my peers to care about issues of race.

But that’s worn me down too.

Every plea dissolves into a conversation that ends with a peer equating their struggles with mine—those that come with being queer, a woman, and low-income—without realizing the impact of those identities intersecting with having brown skin. Worse, I’ve faced blatant racism and xenophobia, with people accusing me of pointing fingers when all I want is to be able to occupy the same space as my privileged peers.

It’s pointless to debate people when they’ve already made up their minds about anyone who dares to complain. So I’m done complaining.

My anger will remain behind closed doors with people I know and trust, who encompass the same range of identities and/or possess an ounce of empathy.

That doesn’t mean for a second that I’ve diminished the power of rage. It just means that, for me, this power is best harnessed among those who understand it, too.”

Aysha Tabassum, Opinions Editor

“Queen’s was a strange place to me when I first arrived in September 2018. I was overwhelmed by the people, the slang, the traditions, and the pop culture references. I often found myself looking at my peers in confusion. Thankfully, they often stopped to explain what was going on or being said.

As a student born and raised in Taiwan, I felt the need to fit in and was often uncomfortable with conversations revolving around where I come from, the country’s political uncertainties, and my struggles with my Taiwanese identity. Then, my race started to be brought up in lectures and in conversations I had with my friends.

It started with my friends telling jokes based on Asian stereotypes. As lighthearted as these jokes were, these stereotypes slowly began alienate me from my peers. It felt like my racial identity was the only thing that defined me.

A part of me wanted to laugh it all off and pretend that what they said was a proper representation of who I am. But I wouldn’t be writing this if I were able to suppress my feelings.

I spoke up and, for once, our conversations no longer revolved around how Asians are bad drivers or make weird food. Cafeteria conversations suddenly revolved around politics in Asia and stigma surrounding Asians in pop culture.

This year, I felt the most empowered following the controversy at Queen’s that targeted the Asian community.

The Coronavirus-themed party was controversial. It was uncalled for and has had a massive, negative impact, but a part of me can’t help but feel relieved it happened because it started dialogue. My people started conversations—and they were loud.

I felt empowered because the Asian community rarely expresses anger and discomfort with such intensity. For once, everyone was ready to be uncomfortable and talk about problems on campus. The micro-aggressions piled high enough to finally be expressed.

It may seem like we’ve exhausted the topic of racism on campus, but I don’t think I’ll ever stop having these conversations with those like me who are affected by it.

The incident didn’t just validate my feelings—it also showed me that I’m not alone. I’m surrounded by a community of people who feel the same way I do.

There’s nothing more empowering than knowing you’re not alone, especially when home is a 16-hour flight away. I’m done complaining, but I’ll never stop having important conversations.”

Sydney Ko, Assistant News Editor


Dialogue, racism

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

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