My Last Post

Wow. It is difficult for me to believe that I will be a graduate of this university in just under two weeks. It is so cliche to say it, but the time has legitimately gone by in what feels like the blink of an eye. If there are any new GEFs reading this, PLEASE make sure to enjoy your time at OU as much as you possibly can. It will be over before you know it!

When I was applying to OU, seeing the new Global Engagement Fellowship program was a big pro for this university in my eyes. Since I was in middle school, I’d dreamt of studying abroad, and it was wonderful to see a university that promoted study abroad so heavily. I was overjoyed to be selected for this program, and I have been so blessed with all of the wonderful experiences that have come out of it.

I still maintain that studying abroad was the best decision I made in college. It was both incredibly fun and incredibly challenging. It taught me to use a foreign language effectively, to be confident in my ability to navigate in unfamiliar situations and places, and to see the world in a different way. Again, this all sounds so cliche, but this cliche exists for a reason. Studying in another country really does change you for the better, and if you are at all interested, I urge you to apply. OU has TONS of study abroad scholarships that make it financially feasible.

Every day, the international community gets more and more connected. No one country can exist as an island anymore, even if it wants to. Because of this, I am so grateful to this program for encouraging me to learn as much about the international community as I possibly could. Now more than ever, this knowledge is vital, and I’m leaving OU knowing that I am a much better-educated and more well-rounded person than I came as.

The moral of this sentimental story is that OU is amazing, the Global Engagement Fellowship is amazing, and studying abroad is even better. I am still having trouble coming to terms with leaving, but I take comfort in the fact that sadness at leaving means that I got to experience something truly awesome. Thank you to Bushra, thank you to Jaci, and thank you to all of my fellow GEFs for making these last four years unforgettable!

ISIS/The Islamic State: Some Thoughts on What’s Happening Now

The rise and spread of ISIS* has made international news for more than three years now. This brutal, militant form of Sunni extremism quickly conquered large pieces of Iraq and Syria, and regional forces, with support from a coalition of 68 countries around the world, have been fighting to take back the territory ever since. Meanwhile, ISIS claimed responsibility for horrific terror attacks committed all over Europe and bleeding into the United States.

ISIS attracted many young people into its ranks both in the Middle East and in western countries. Surprisingly to many, ISIS actually attracted many well-educated, economically well-off youth in addition to more traditionally disenfranchised people. As its numbers and territory grew and its terror attacks became more frequent, ISIS inspired a great deal of fear throughout the world. Within areas controlled by ISIS, native people suffered greatly, and in the West, people feared more terror attacks and the organization spreading further.

For years, at least to me, it’s felt as though the international community has made little progress in taking ISIS down. ISIS would lose territory and then gain it back, all while continuing to commit terror attacks. However, there has been a recent turn of good fortune – the leaders of both Iraq and Iran have declared that ISIS has been militarily defeated in both Iraq and Syria. I am honestly skeptical of this; the news is new and in fights such as this, victories are seldom so clear-cut. However, ISIS’s loss of Mosul in July signaled the beginning of significant territorial losses for them, and for once, ISIS really does appear to be losing ground.

I am incredibly pleased that ISIS is retreating and that native Iraqis and Syrians are beginning to get their countries back. However, based on all of the research I’ve done this semester, I think it’s incredibly important that western powers who’ve been assisting regional forces in Iraq and Syria militarily to attempt to solve the root causes of terrorism, rather than just the symptoms. Military victory is fantastic, but because ISIS is just as much an ideology and a rallying cry for many who feel disenfranchised, I fear that military victories will be temporary. Western responses to terrorism often treat the symptoms of terrorism but fail to tackle the larger roots: economic inequality, ineffective and ill-thought-out foreign policy, and social unrest, to name a few. Admittedly, these issues will be significantly more difficult to tackle, but I think this makes them all the more important. Yes, we need to fight back against ISIS with military strength, but I think that we also need to fight back with ideas.

Obviously, I am but an undergraduate biology major with an interest in foreign policy. I fully recognize that my statements above are an oversimplification of these complex, multifaceted international events and issues. I by no means claim to be an authority here; I would simply like to start a conversation about these issues. I think that terrorism has many root causes, and work on tackling those, rather than fighting the fires that emerge as a result, has the potential to affect real, lasting change. The difficulty, of course, lies in figuring out how exactly to go about fighting those root causes.

*There are many names for this organization, and what is most widely accepted continues to change. Throughout this post, I’ve chosen to use ISIS for simplicity and because this term is widely recognizable to the American public.

International Involvement: Baccano

Although I have not been as involved in international life on campus as I would've liked to be, I told myself I would stay involved in Baccano.

A shortage of time this semester meant I was unfortunately unable to continue taking Italian language classes, a fact that pained me a lot. It was a reality I had to accept, that the importance of finishing my major-specific coursework meant that some things had to take a back seat. As is life.

Baccano was my escape this semester. From the Caffe e Conversazione event detailed here to our hour-long organizational meeting to plan a budget for the semester, I loved getting to hang out with the people who make this club amazing to be a part of.

It's truly a different breed. People believe in stereotypes for a reason - they usually arise from at least a grain of truth. Yes, they can go too far and be harmful, but they often turn out to be a teensy bit accurate. I have noticed this difference distinctly, being an internationally involved STEM major. The two parts of my personality are worlds apart. In the latter, I have become used to introversion and an overall awkward quietness. In the former, I simply have to accept that I may not get a word in edgewise - but only because every moment is filled with fascinating and lively conversation.

The members of Baccano personify this perfectly. They are excited by life itself, ready to speak a passionate and beautiful language, drink coffee in the smallest of glasses, and mull over dinner as a three-hour affair.

I absolutely love it, so I am happy to maintain this thread of a connection to Italian language and culture by participating in Baccano.

The Roots and Rise of Islamophobia in the West

This semester, I have had the immense pleasure of doing honors research on the roots and rise of Islamophobia in the West under Dr. Charles Kimball. The semester is far from over, and I learn new things every day, but my research has many parallels to current events both in the United States and abroad, and I want to make a quick post sharing some of the things I’ve learned so far. This is a quick summary of my thoughts on what I’ve read so far.

Islam is the world’s second-largest religion and the fastest growing religion in the world. It was founded in 622 by a man named Muhammad, who Muslims believe is the messenger of God. The Quran, the central Islamic religious text, is believed to be God’s final revelation, a purification of the Torah and the Bible that came before it.

Islam shares many doctrinal similarities with Judaism and Christianity, and it even looks up to many of the same holy figures (the Quran mentions Jesus and Moses many more times than it mentions Muhammad). Yet, despite these similarities, many, many Americans and Europeans who are not Muslim view Islam to be a religion of violence and oppression, something far removed from so-called “Western values.” Post-9/11, both anti-terrorism efforts and anti-Islamic sentiments have been on the rise in the United States, but these prejudiced views of Islam are far from new. Rather, they date back to the earliest interactions between Islam and Christianity, and Western society has largely been unable to shake these biases that it formed so long ago.

When Islam first arrived on the scene, it definitely shook the status quo for the Christians at the time. Islam gained followers, power, and knowledge incredibly quickly, making the Western countries appear backwards by comparison. Thus, the first impressions that the West formed of Islam were formed in fear; Islam was the greatest threat to Christianity that Christians had ever seen, and in their fear, their initial assessment of Islam was incredibly inaccurate. They painted Muslims as godless villains and relied much more on their own imaginations than on research into what Islam is really like to form their first impressions. (Source: Western Views of Islam in the Middle Ages, R.W. Southern)

Over the years, when Islam ceased to be as much of a military threat, Western scholars began to conduct more accurate research on Islam, but an anti-Islamic sentiment still persisted throughout much of the Western world. Negative caricatures of the prophet Muhammad and damaging misunderstandings of Islamic law and practices were pervasive. Even as Western society as a whole gained more understanding of the actual text of the Quran and of the actual religious practices observed by many Muslims, the prejudice generated in the Middle Ages remained ingrained in their societies. Events like the Crusades underscored the fact that Islam was treated as the enemy, and though some in the Western world, most notably St. Francis, sought peace and interfaith dialogues between Christians and Muslims, this attitude was the exception, not the rule. (Sources: Islam and the West: The Making of an Image, Norman Daniel, and The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam, and Francis of Assisi’s Mission of Peace, Paul Moses).

European colonialism threw yet another wrinkle into Islamic-Western relations. European powers dominated many majority-Muslim countries for many years, and when they left, propped up oppressive authoritarian regimes, choosing their own economic interests over the implementation of the democracy that they claimed to value. These actions led to many political tensions in Africa and the Middle East that have yet to evaporate, as well as, understandably, mistrust of Western powers in the eyes of many Muslims. Western countries left terrible governments in their wake and claimed to support democracy but failed to do this in practice. As a result, many Muslims looked to Islam as a framework that could guide their political lives in addition to their private religious ones. Many majority Muslim countries have sought to implement Islam in some way into their governments, and this is an uncomfortable idea to many European countries, and to America, who pride themselves on the separation of church and state. (Sources: Islam: The Straight Path, John Esposito, and The Future of Islam, John Esposito).

Some in Muslim countries have felt so oppressed by the West that they’ve lashed out in terror attacks. Many non-Muslims in the West are quick to equate these attacks with all Muslims, when in reality, many of these attacks are politically-motivated, using Islam to justify violence but born from fear of Western political and military intervention rather than from fear of Christianity. (Sources: Islam: The Straight Path, John Esposito, and The Future of Islam, John Esposito).

What all of this boils down to is that there is a great deal of fear and mistrust on both sides of this divide, and these emotions and sentiments are far from novel. The challenge now comes in cutting through the fear and focusing more on our similarities and less on our differences. I know that sounds incredibly idealistic, but it is an ideal that I would like to strive for in my life moving forward.

At this point in my semester, I’m turning my attention to the specific case studies of the United States and Great Britain, looking at the historical roots of Islamophobia in each country and the modern manifestations of it. So far, it seems to me that much of the problem arises with an inability for many non-Muslims to imagine Muslim society complexly. Many have difficulty distinguishing between Muslims and Arabs, and equate all Muslims with the violence and extremism demonstrated by only a few. With my research, I hope to shed even a little bit of light onto this complex issue, as well as to champion the idea that we can and should see Muslims as the diverse, multifaceted group that they are. The enemy of ignorance is knowledge, and I hope to share a bit of that with my community with this semester’s research.

What is Biophilia?

I became interested in Biophilia after my boyfriend told me about his research concerning the topic. The concept is that people have a tendency to see out nature. To visualize it, as people have transitioned to working outside, they find it pleasing to look out windows or own plants. To bring people back to their primal instinct of being around nature, we as a species long to be outside.

I am lucky enough to go to college where they take pride in creating visually appealing agricultural landscapes. Most of their buildings come with large scale windows alongside classrooms or studying areas. For me, when I look outside I feel less stressed and relaxed. Perhaps the reason I feel this way is because it reflects two different environments. Inside for work, outside for play.

Recently, my university has introduced a bike share program. It is completely free for students for an hour a day. I personally don’t own a bike or a car, so this program has made it more enjoyable to move around campus. Especially during spring time when everything is in bloom, biking around campus is very enjoyable.

Ever since I learned about Biophilia, I have started to take notice in how much I love to be outside, especially when I am on campus. I have even gone out of my busy routine to buy a small succulent. I would encourage everyone to try to spend more time outside or invest in a personal house plant to put on their desk.

Here is my terrarium that I made. I used to like gardening when I was small, but with 29 hours of work and 15 hrs of school, I opted for succulent instead of flowers.

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I encourage all of you who read this to take notice in how nature affects your life. I hope that you find yourself less stressed as you walk, run, cycle, etc. Take time out of your busy life, especially as finals week gets closer, to take time for yourself. Even if it’s something as small as a plant for your desk, try to slow down and appreciate nature.

Epcot: the World Showcase

Over this spring break, I had the immense pleasure of visiting Disney World with my family. It’s funny, because I pride myself on going off-the-beaten-path and taking care to experience more than just the touristy side of new places. I want to immerse myself in the real culture and to blend in, not to stand at-odds with the amazing places I visit. Walt Disney World, in all honestly, stands a little at-odds with these tendencies: as vacations go, it’s up there on the touristy scale.

However, despite it’s cheese factor, to me, Disney really is magical. For one thing, I’m a fairly high-stress person, and the opportunity to spend a week at Disney with my family and best friend meant getting to take a week off of responsibility and to just focus on fun. That’s rare for me. For another thing, I think there’s something admirable about a place dedicated entirely to bringing people joy. From the perfectly engineered details of the place to the friendly employees to the massive media presence that they whole place is founded upon, it’s clear that Disney is carrying out their mission well. It was an amazing week, and it gave me some wonderful memories.

Now, you’re probably wondering why I’ve decided to ramble on about the wonders of Disney and what exactly this has to do with international events. We’re getting there! Because my favorite Disney park has always been Epcot, and my favorite part of Epcot has always been the World Showcase. If you haven’t been, the World Showcase is a long, circular walkway around a lake that features miniature versions of eleven countries from around the world. Each country’s area is themed to that country, filled with its cuisine, music, and even employees from that country. Walking through the showcase is like taking a mini trip around the world, all in a day. Obviously, it doesn’t beat experiencing these countries in real life, but there is something so cool about strolling from country to country and feeling immersed in so many exotic places so close together.

Some could, justifiably, argue that this showcase is guilty of reducing massive and diverse countries into a limited number of their most famous traits. This is true, but I like to think that Epcot is celebrating what makes each of the eleven countries they’ve chosen unique in the world. After having been to the U.K., Canada, France, Italy, and Morocco, I can honestly say that Disney does a fantastic job of capturing the spirit of these places, and the fact that the employees in each country’s section are residents of that country makes it all the more awesome. Many people don’t have the means or opportunity to get to places like Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America, but a trip to Epcot can help them better appreciate all of these places, as well as getting to meet people who’ve lived there.

One of my biggest passions has always been learning about other cultures and traveling to new cities and countries. I love my own culture, but I’ve always been hungry to experience others. To me, Epcot is the best of this – it gives people a taste of what lies outside the U.S. and celebrates foreign countries for being uniquely great. I like to think that Epcot inspires other people to love and celebrate the international community. I know it inspires me.

International Involvement: Baccano

My semester has been brightened by an Italian touch.

First off, my Intermediate Italian Continued course is full of amazing people, and each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday is made one hundred times more fun by our banter.

Secondly, I've gotten more heavily involved in Baccano, our campus's Italian conversation club. Out of curiosity, I attended its organizational meeting at the very start of the semester. The group of us, along with Dr. Daniela Busciglio, brainstormed ideas for events we could host. Movie nights, coffee meetups, bake sales, soccer tournaments, you name it! This group of guys and gals is so enthusiastic about Italian language and culture - it's absolutely infectious. What began as a simple interest in learning a beautiful-sounding language has grown into a love for what that language represents: the culture of a passionate, loving people.

Two events stand out to me as being especially exciting.

The first was our second Caffe e Conversazione for the semester. Anyone with any level of Italian who was interested could come to Crimson & Whipped Cream and chat away with other like-minded people. Along with some people from my own Italian class, I met several fun new folks and had awesome conversation about everything from our favorite foods to our romantic gossip - all in Italian. I remember thinking, this is real language learning. Not memorizing long lists of vocabulary you may never use, but rather putting all of it into practice and forcing yourself to think, speak, and breathe the language. Throwing yourself into the deep end and chatting away, drawing on the collective knowledge when you reach a roadblock or can't quite articulate a thought. It's embarrassing and scary and wholly thrilling.

The second event was quite exciting - the documentary filmmaker Fred Kuwornu came to OU for a day to speak. His films seek to enact social change, which creates an interesting middle ground between art and activism. Although I was not able to make it to his talk, I did attend the meet & greet and later accompanied Dr. Busciglio and Mr. Kuwornu to dinner, where I was able to ask millions of questions about his life's work.

I'm grateful to Baccano for providing opportunities for me to step out of my comfort zone and learn outside of the classroom. I can only expect my involvement to become more exciting over the coming weeks and semesters!

The New Fountain of Youth?

Hi everyone,

Now that I’m done with final exams, I thought I would like to give you a little more info about me. Ever since I was a little girl, I have had a numerous amount of short-term interests. When I say short term, I really mean an obsession with something that lasts for about a year or so, and then I quickly move one to the next thing. When I was younger I had a lot of time to try new things, but now that I’m in college I wish I could have that time back again. Things like studying, working and trying to have a social life all cut into your free time. Sure, you could go party all the time but then your grades would suffer. So like my usual self, I chose to put some of my short term hobbies aside and focus on my 19 hours of course work. One thing that I have been able to every now and then, is to look up skincare tips and products.

One thing that I have been able to every now and then, is to look up skincare tips and products. Some people might say, “why are you focusing on skin care products? you’re only in college.” I know, I know; Call me crazy, but for me, skin care is something that I’m always interested. And, you’re never too young to start caring for your skin. Beauty eventually fades, but I am genuinely intrigued about the skin care industry. In fact, I was inspired primarily through these so-called “Beauty Gurus” on YouTube. After watching videos from a girl named BubzBeauty, I was hooked. It was so fascinating to see how different Asian and American people thought about skincare. In America, a lot of emphases was placed on anti-aging products and your basic moisturizers. I would always see the basic stuff when I walked down my local Wal Mart’s skincare aisle: face washes, toners, and then an array of moisturizers. However, Asian skin care, in my opinion, dominates the worldwide skin care industry. Especially countries like Japan and Korea. Korean and Japanese skin care products appeal to all different types of age groups and skin types, like Western companies, but they focus on more things. You can get products that help with brightening and whitening your skin. When you’re new to these products you might think the word “whitening” is kind of bizarre, but you’re not applying any bleach or actual whitening products yo your face. Instead, the term means the product is making your skin look like its glowing from the inside out. They also have products, like sheet masks and sleeping packs, that put extra moisture back into your skin as well. Korea even invented the cushion foundation as well. Even Estee Lauder and YSL thought it was a great invention, and they have since made their own cushion foundation. Asia’s skin care industry is said to be 7-8 years ahead of Western skincare, so there’s no surprise that stores like Sephora are stocking up on these hidden gems. If you want to know more about brands and what products to try, you can always contact me and I’ll nerd out about everything that I know.

If you want to know more about brands and what products to try, you can always contact me and I’ll nerd out about everything that I know. I love talking about skin care, because I like to see the transformations people’s skin goes through. For a while, I wanted to be a dermatologist because of my passion for skin care. However, I chose international business because I thought it would be a better fit in the long run. Plus, I wanted to travel to a variety of places too, and maybe pick up some products in person. This is something that I will enjoy doing for a very long time, and I think it helps me see what the skin care in a specific country says about it. Right now in Asia, there are a lot of products that focus on younger, hydrated, fuller-looking skin. They use natural products, found in plants and oils to create effective, and sometimes cheap products. The fact that people in Asia care so much for their skin made me happy that America was taking notice. Hopefully, we will begin to see more American companies look into better quality skin care for a more decent price. When that time comes, I’ll be sure to make a post about it.

 

Just Do It

`As the year of 2016 comes to a close, I, as well as thousands of other college students, face the dreaded time of the year known as “dead week”. This semester I loaded up my plate with 19 hours while working for 14 hours. I know that it may seem ambitious of me to bite off so much, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that being academically inclined will pay off in the long run. Many people wonder why I take so many hours when I could just take 15 hours or even just 12 hours. My answer to them is that I wanted to take advantage of my school’s flat rate tuition as much as possible. At my university, I’m allowed to take up to 19 hours and still pay the same number of fees as if I were to only take 12 hours. Coming from a family where every penny matters, I wasn’t going to back down from this offer. This is my third straight semester of taking 18-19 hours, as well as my fifth straight semester of classes. I took 19 hours the Fall of my freshman year, a winter intersession course, 18 hours in the Spring semester, 9 hours in the Summer, and am currently in the Fall semester of my sophomore year taking 19 again. Throughout all of this, I was able to miraculously keep my cumulative GPA above a 3.3 up to now. I’m very proud of the work that I’ve done, but something still comes to mind every now and then.

`Whenever it comes time to see whether you will drop a class, I will always be surrounded with people that may or may not hold themselves accountable to their studies. I see people that choose to give up and say,” eh, I’ll never pass the class now, so why should I still go to class?”, or “it doesn’t matter. I’ll just take the class next semester or take it at the local community college. It’s way easier there.” Whenever I hear these things, it makes me extremely disappointed. College is like one of the closest things to the real world. High school was like a cake walk trying to prepare you for the years that are some of the most important years in your life. Sure, you can try to be like Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, or Bill Gates, but the matter of the fact is is that not everyone is lucky enough to be like that. Sure, I could drop out right now and risk it all banking on that I could be the next Steve Jobs, but I’m not going to do that. A college is a place where you’re tested to see how you can survive in the real world. When I see students give up in the middle of the semester, it’s like they’re giving up on themselves. They’re taking advantage of the fact that you can always try again in that class later, instead of facing it head on today. They’re giving up on themselves, and the future adult they could be. Meaning that when they get to the real world, there are no do-overs. Student’s take advantage of college. Because, why should I burn myself out, when I can still sit next to someone that barely even cares? I wish students tried harder for the careers they wanted. To know how painstakingly hard one must work to achieve that position is a learning experience in itself.

`To be a part of a generation that, frankly, is one of the laziest generations, makes me hesitant of what will happen when we are no longer in college. Outside of college, there aren’t any tutoring sessions to help you with your job. College gives you almost all the resources one needs to, as my generation calls it, “learn how to adult”. I know that people are learning what it takes to be an independent adult, but if they don’t start in college, when will they? My point, as a fellow student, is that I’m tired of seeing students give up. I don’t want to see them wait for the year to reset or have their parents come in and save the day. I want every student to invest in themselves and strive to achieve the satisfaction of knowing that they got that degree without giving up. I know that the world is a cruel place for people who don’t persevere through all that college has to throw at them. I don’t want it to happen to any of you.

#ThisIs2016

After the outcome of the 2016 Presidential Election, the whole nations seemed to come unhinged. Realistically speaking, the world didn’t or massive leaks revealed that aliens were real. But in the eyes of many American people, the values of gender and racial equality seemed to go out the window. One of the most surprising things to me is that America hasn’t made as much progress that I thought. For instance, while scrolling through Facebook I saw that a lot of my friends had shared a video titled “#ThisIs2016”. This video shared the story of an encounter a CEO had while he was and about on the weekend. The CEO was Asian American and very successful. However, despite all this, another woman said to him, “why don’t you go back to China?”. The CEO then went public, telling others about his experience, sparking a wave of other Asian Americans to come forward with their own similar experiences. The election in November has only seemed to heighten the racial tension in America. In fact, it only seems to have been awakened by the 2016 election. The so-called silent majority have only been waiting for a catalyst to bring back this behavior. Not only racial tension has heightened, but gender equality has also taken a hit. With the winner of the election being someone that has criticized specific genders and races, it makes me wonder what type of America we live in. The fact that I question that scared me. It has scared me for the future of this country internationally and domestically. Yes, internationally many countries will become wary of trading with the U.S, and of course, nuclear weapons and diplomatic relations will be on the line, but domestically we are facing a bigger issue. Domestically, we will be tested in how much people care about the environment and social welfare. Not only that, but we will be tested in how people will see each other.

One subject that is the most concerning to me is that people will now have an excuse to degrade people by their gender and race more than they did before. Prior to the election, it was unacceptable to scrutinize someone for their race or gender. However, now that our president does it, who are we to tell people that it’s disrespectful? Sure, many people will blame the millennials for not participating as much in the election, but the matter of the fact is that some millennials still voted for Donald Trump. Educated and uneducated women voted for him, despite the comments he has made throughout the campaign. To all the millennials who voted in the election, especially women, it makes me disappointed in how you have let this man talk about you. I don’t think I will ever be able to understand why after all these degrading things were said to you, you would still support someone like that to the very end. I implore every woman who participated in the elected to look back at history and realizes that we have taken a step back. A step back in gender equality, a step back in racial equality, and a step back in self-respect.

As a young woman who is Asian Americas, I question how my future will look. Will I be treated equally once I get out of college? Will be welcomed in other countries if I were to travel overseas? Will I be able to one day say that this is the American dream so many people strive to achieve? Right now, I cannot change the outcome of the election. I will not go to social media and post about my anger and sadness about the outcome either. The only thing that I can do now is hope for change. I hope that people will be able to make decisions based on facts, not just based on outrageous and extravagant opinions. I also wish that people will be able to take learn from their decisions, not just brush them under the rug and forget about them. Years of ignoring something just gives it time to fester until the moment to strike arrives.  I don’t know what these next four years will hold, but I hope that we as people will be able to surpass the criticism and discrimination and prove to the world that we are better than what this election has made us out to be.