Two years ago, I started an organization called KindCarts in sophomore year. I love it. It helps patients in dark times, it’s helped me grow as a person and a leader; it was my Leadershape vision. It receives the best parts of me. I submitted it to be featured on a company website whose page highlights charitable efforts, and received a grim reminder of how far we, as a society, have to come.
I never knew that my organization was featured until yesterday and was initially ecstatic. When I went to click on it, some odd things jumped out at me. First, although the blurb matched almost word-for-word the one in my record (barring pronouns), it started off with “Pat Rice is a member of . . .” At first I found it funny, even Snapchatting it to my friends. Like, who is this Pat Rice person, right? But then I noticed how the way they cropped the picture so it removed as many minorities from the shot as possible. I thought about the word choice of “Rice” and being bullied as a child for being Asian by being called “sushi.” So I started digging and everything I saw seemed to indicate one thing—the willful, intentional erasure of minorities.
Was the cropping out of minorities an accident? After all, some pictures still included minorities, and all pictures were made an equal width and length (3 inches on my computer), which could account for the change. So I first looked at the zoom function when you hovered over them on the main page. Sometimes the zoom cut out the people on the edges slightly, but the clicked-on picture removed them even more completely. In other pictures, clicking on the picture led you to the same picture with no cropping, or even to a one that showed more than the first. In all those pictures, almost all of the people were white. But anytime minorities could be cropped out, they were—they only stayed in the picture if they were near the center. Two young black girls, a twenty-ish Asian woman, an older black woman. Once you clicked on the picture, the article showed a picture where they were fully or partially removed.
Why change my name? Maybe for privacy purposes? But every other name on their Make for Good page was real; I googled and found them all, with pictures or references to their organizations to prove it. So what was different about my name compared to theirs? Their names were pretty ethnically ambiguous; mine is not. Even if you could argue the pictures were accidental in some way, maybe a computer glitch, the name change is not. That change had to be purposefully done.
This is by far not the only time I’ve experienced something like this. I’ve been bullied with every name there is, I’ve been told I was only cast as the musical’s lead because of the director wanted to look “multicultural,” I’ve been told I can’t say the Pledge of Allegiance because “I’m not a real citizen.” But this is different, or at least, it feels different. KindCarts is the best parts of me. I pore my love into it; it makes people smile; it makes an impact. Why is what I do good enough for you, but who I am not? Why is what I do apparently enough to gain praise, but only if it can’t be accredited to me, only if a name that sounds less ethnic, more “white” is there to take credit?
I don’t need recognition. But I do need people to know that I am present. I am here, and so is every other person who has been denied or erased because of their race or their gender, their sexuality, their disability, or their “anything different.” Immigrants, minorities, LBGTQ+, women, these people you try to deny, they contribute to this society every day. We make contributions, we help build your roads, discover your medicines, teach your children and serve your families. You cannot demand our work, but not give us the right to be seen. You cannot praise our work and then remove us from the picture like we never existed. You cannot want what we do, but not want us.
We can do better than this. If you are being treated wrongly, please speak out. If you see someone being treated wrongly, please reach out. We can build a kinder community. If they want silence, our voices will drown them out. If they want to erase us, they will not be able to, because the light will always chase away the dark, and the warm will always replace the cold.