It was 9:25 p.m. on May 23. I was heading home after attending an amazing musical event sponsored by the Chinese Students & Scholars Association held at the MultiCultural Center Theater. The night was beautiful, until I saw multiple police cars, ambulance, and firetrucks passing by, all racing toward Isla Vista. Something did not feel right. I was scared. As soon as I arrived home, I checked my email, but there was no alert. So I quickly logged into Twitter to find out what was happening in Isla Vista (#IV). My heart sank when I found out that there was a massive shooting targeting female students.
As a woman of color, I felt vulnerable through this tragic event. However, I believe there is still hope. We cannot control all the events that happen every day in our lives or in our community. But we can do something now to facilitate change — by being a "loving neighbor." I would like to share my thoughts on four ways, or perhaps, four challenges for all of us at UCSB and in Isla Vista, as we work together to bring proximate justice.
1. Choose to cross the street to cross barriers of culture and fear. Sometimes, if we encounter situations that are messy and complicated, or if we meet someone from another culture, race, gender, or ethnicity that is unfamiliar, it is easy for us to fear and walk away without taking a closer look. However, the very first step to bringing proximate justice and to be a loving neighbor is to have the courage to cross the street — to cross that barrier and reach out.
2. Choose to open your eyes and notice. We have our eyes generally open (unless we are sleeping), but we do have a choice, most of the time, to choose what we want to see or have to see. After crossing the street or the barrier, the next step is to take a closer look. But after seeing what is happening or what is needed, we sometimes close our eyes. Well, that’s OK. It is quite natural to close our eyes. What’s important is our courage to open our eyes again to figure out how we can help.
3. Choose to give time and money. After crossing the street, seeing, and realizing what is needed, we ought to make another decision — using our valuable time and/or money. We all can be hearers and readers of the news. But how often do we pause, to reflect, and to give? And we wonder whether our help would make any difference. Well, the good news is, yes it will — as long as we all work together toward a common goal. There is power and hope when we collaborate and when we give. We cannot make any changes if we, ourselves, are hesitant to give anything.
4. Choose to open your hearts and feel. We cannot live harmoniously and bring proximate justice if we do not open our hearts and truly feel what is happening around us — in our school, our community, our country, and our world. It is from our heart we can show love and attention to our family, friends, colleagues, students, faculty, staff, and our community members. It is only when we open our hearts that we can understand and be able to empathize or sympathize.
As we live in this busy, and often individualistic society, the concept of “neighbor” is slowly disappearing. All kinds of reforms and changes can be made at the policy, organizational, and/or institutional level. But I believe the most important change is the change that starts within us — transforming to become a good, loving neighbor to one another. By choosing to cross the street to cross barriers of culture and fear, by choosing to open our eyes and notice, as well as to give time and money, and by choosing to open our hearts and feel what is happening around us, we can all hope for change. And justice might be just around the corner, in close proximity. Now, before we ask who our neighbor is, let us first reflect on what kind of neighbor we have been and what kind we ought to be from this point forward.
(Editor's Note: Graduate Division Diversity and Outreach Peer Hala Sun is a doctoral student in the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education. She holds two master's degrees: a Master in Public Administration, specializing in International Management, from the Monterey Institute of International Studies; and an MA in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from the Monterey Institute. Hala, who speaks five languages, is of South Korean descent, grew up in the Philippines, and attended a Chinese school. Her research interests focus on bilingualism/multilingualism, second language acquisition, language development through interaction, and teacher development.)