I’ve always been passionate about the government, so choosing my political science major was not a difficult decision. While I have plenty of opinions regarding fiscal policy and our education system, I struggle with what seems like an unbreakable obstacle: racism and oppression both in our institutions and in our daily lives. I can fight to stop racism and I can fight for equality, but how does someone that that has never personally experienced racism end it? How can I possibly be more successful than every politician before me?

I think my fear is due to this feeling that I need to drastically change the system, but the truth is that I won’t. However, I can work to improve the system. Maybe I can increase the amount of cents women make to every man’s dollar; maybe I can fight to protect minorities in regards to law enforcement. Ideally, I begin a political career and drastically change the United States for the better but I recognize that the unattainability in this aspiration.

Coming from a very white suburb 17 miles north of Chicago, racism is not something you see every day. Despite only being at Vanderbilt for half a school year, my eyes have been opened to the racism that still exists in the south. For a long time, I was sort of mystified by the term “micro-aggressions”. After today, the mystery is gone.

Today, for World Hijab Day, my roommate wore a hijab throughout campus. When she came back to the room, we discussed her experience. I asked her if she felt uncomfortable and her response was yes. I’m not sure why I was surprised, as a few of my Muslim friends have expressed their own discomfort on campus, particularly during the election.

When my roommate told me that multiple people asked her what the scarf on her head was, I cringed. How do people not know what a hijab is? She also mentioned the looks of confusion and the double takes she received walking on campus and in her classes. I was upset for her. It made me wonder, did I do a double take when passing friends?

How am I supposed to change the political climate if I’ve never truly witnessed oppression?