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  • Su Shen Ooi

Tragedies Don't Reside in the Past

Last week, Asia Club held a bubble tea sale in order to raise money for the tragic bombings in Sri Lanka. The sale was a success as we sold out and raised a lot of money to donate to Red Cross efforts in Sri Lanka. Asia Club was originally going to donate the money to an organization which helps Asian-Americans in labor rights, healthcare, immigration, etc. However, after the bombings, we decided to donate to the more recent event.

While looking for organizations to donate to, other members and I were saddened when we had trouble finding reputable organizations helping Sri Lanka. We could only find a GoFundme pages and Red Cross. I was quite upset as so many innocent lives were lost, yet I felt that people weren’t paying enough attention to the event. While it’s easy to see a death count as just a number, in order to see the true severity of the tragedy, we should realize that all 250+ lives lost had families, friends, lifestories, thoughts and goals. While I was also upset by the fire in Notre Dame and support the rebuilding of it, I think it’s quite unfair that profits to rebuild Notre Dame rose rapidly while Sri Lanka is still suffering the effects of the bombing. After the fire in Notre Dame, I saw countless Instagram posts mourning the building and the tragic loss of art and religious symbolism. However, after the Sri Lanka bombings, I saw only one post dedicated to mourning the lives lost. I’m not saying that people should not donate to Notre Dame as it is such an important and meaningful building, but I do think people shouldn’t pay less attention to other tragedies — especially fatal ones.

When learning about the ugly sides of history (slavery, racism, sexism, World War II and many more), I always wonder how people who lived in those times witnessed these horrible occurrences but did nothing. However, after watching the Netflix documentary “13th” and writing my oral history project in AP Core, I realized terrible incidents are unceasing right now, and yet I’m not doing anything active to help. It’s normal for me to go onto news sites, read dreadful and shocking news about our world at the moment, feel sad for a moment and proceed to go on with my day.

During Spring Break, I read a few articles regarding the Muslim “re-education” camps in China. Since I didn’t see any big news regarding such inhumane treatment, I didn’t think much of it. I decided to ask my cousin, who works with the United Nations in Malaysia, about the topic as he regularly deals with refugees fleeing religious persecution. I was horrified and shocked to find out that these “re-education” camps are true and are basically concentration camps. These Muslim detention camps in China have an estimated population of 1 million Muslims in them. This conversation with my cousin really shifted my perspective on the world as I realized that horrible actions and events were happening in my lifetime, not just in history, and I was completely ignorant of it.

With the amount of privilege I was born into and live in, it’s easy for me to ignore global tragedies. However, as I want to be part of a positive historic change, I’m trying to become more aware of global and societal issues and take an active role in progress. I truly believe that in the future people will learn about our current events (police brutality, separation of undocumented families, Flint water crisis, etc.). We need to remember that at some point in the future, students will study about us in their history class and wonder the same things we often wonder about history — why didn’t people act more. While I know a donation won’t do a whole lot in the big scope of the situation, I hope Asia Club’s donation to Sri Lanka will be mine and other people’s first actions towards active change in progress.

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