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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UC Berkeley chapter.

Who should bear the heaviest responsibility for fighting against discrimination? Is it the elites, who enjoy wealth on the behalf of the people? Is it the politicians that are supposed to represent us? Is it your city, neighborhood, and friends? What about the minorities themselves? 

Should a person of color be required to speak up for Black rights, while some of the privileged white also fight on their behalf? Maybe. Perhaps the latter should bear a heavier responsibility because your privilege indicates how much power you have in society. But if the oppressed don’t speak up, should they then be able to complain when they experience discrimination? 

What made me think of this question was specifically one conversation I had in class with a UC Berkeley student. Political Science major, Adam Ahmad, believes politicians have one task: expressing the views of their constituents. “That is the whole reason why they are elected,” he said. 

However, even though he recognizes this and the extreme power politicians have, he emphasized that individuals themselves share the most responsibility in relation to advocating for change. “If enough people are mobilizing, if enough people are doing it, then change can be made,” he said. “Or at least it will be put on top of their agendas.” 

He later shined a light on the importance of education, but with a different twist. Not only the role of formal education but the importance of engaging in conversations, even when they are uncomfortable and you know you disagree with them. In his view, if you hear anyone expressing something that could be misinformation about a minority, it is your responsibility to step in. 

“If you hear something and let it go by, you are playing a role in that misinformation and you are exacerbating the issue by not speaking up – despite knowing the truth.” 

Ahmad believes minorities have to use their time to advocate for human rights, and that this could be anything from an Instagram post to engaging in a conversation about the topic. However, he emphasizes that it would be outrageous if minorities were required to do this all the time and he recognizes that not all people are fortunate enough to have the resources to do so. 

I wanted to become more educated on this topic so I asked Political Science major and former politician, Hamza Ali, the same questions. He told me about the most prominent barriers minorities face today, stating stereotypes as the biggest one, while adding that this is visible in all aspects of society. 

When I asked him who was responsible for this he had a clear answer: 

“It depends on who you are.” 

He explained that if you’re in a position of power it is important to recognize this power and use your position to fight discrimination. This is something Religion and Society masters student, Adrian Sulemana Bolstad, also agreed with. 

“Those who want a change should fight for a change. Those in positions of power should acknowledge the people who put them there and help them maintain power.” 

However, Bolstad meant that solidarity is ideal, but emphasizes that it is a choice. He stated that moralizing people with regard to their cultural background, and saying they should fight for something just because of the way they look, is highly problematic. “It is borderline racist,” he added. He ended by stating that minorities are not a monolith and that there should not be a one-dimensional way of approaching a minority experience.

Ali agrees with how people with a minority background often have their identity reduced to the color of their skin. He pulled up an example of how politicians, who might want to work with school, industry, or energy politics, have to use their time answering for racism, instead of focusing on building their professional knowledge and career. He states that:

“These politicians and public figures must be given room to be ‘Black’ without having racism as their only field to advocate for.”

However, he emphasizes that their attitude towards racism has to be clear and robust otherwise, something that Ahmad agrees with: 

“If you want to change, you have to be a part of that change.” 

On the other side, Ahmad has an even clearer response that he shines a light on when explaining how if you’re a minority and are not satisfied with the way things are but have tried to advocate for change, then your complaints are valid. 

However, he adds: 

“If you have not participated in any way shape or form you have effectively stripped your right of that. It is the same way how people say how they hate the presidential administration and then they don’t vote. You don’t have a right, because you exempt yourself from that right, you gave up your right.”

Three different people and three different perspectives. This shows the complexity of this topic and the need for further discussion. However, it seems like they are all clear that standing in solidarity will always be the ideal.

Elise Sandvik

UC Berkeley '23

Hi! I'm currently studying global studies, and spend most of my time working with human rights. Besides that I have a love for fashion, art and creativity in general – and most important: storytelling. Ever since I discovered the art of journalism, I haven’t been able to put my pen down. Not just because I love writing, but because there are just too many stories to be told. Each unique, personal, and inspiring stories about individuals, projects, interests, or hobbies. These sorties deserve to be told – they deserve to be heard. Thank you for taking the time to read them. Elise