A Struggle for Diversity: Navigating the Augur Bit as a Person of Color

I am the first editor-in-chief of color since 2011. 

In my four years writing for the Bit, I have too often found myself as the only voice of color in the room. I am an Asian American female—an identity that puts me in positions of both power and lack thereof. 

Recent comments and posts calling out GDS’ commitment to diversity and inclusion have led me here: questioning the institutions I am a part of and my own unique positions of privilege.

I know that as a Chinese American I am afforded certain privileges in some spaces that other people of color (POC) are not. I am part of a community that often thrives on assimilation and has a deep-rooted history of colorism. Although the “model minority” myth (the idea that Asian Americans are all polite, law-abiding citizens who made it in America despite being non-white) is harmful to Asians and is used as a tool to divide communities of color, I cannot ignore that its existence creates a persona for Asian Americans that may be more palatable to white peers. I know that people are not threatened by my presence—and that may be a reason I am more comfortable in white spaces.

Last year as I gave my speech running for editor-in-chief, I looked out into the sea of mostly white faces and I pledged to advocate for the voices that are unheard in our community. Now eight months into my tenure, I know that I have not done enough. 

I tried to make good on my promise through my writing even before I became editor-in-chief; I wrote front-page articles about the DEI office, the Holi festival and Young Women of Color. I hoped not only to give a voice to POC through my stories but to show young writers in the GDS community that there was a writer who looked like them. But unless you already knew me, my white-passing name in the byline stood in the way.

The little things had the biggest impact when I first joined the Bit: walking into the room and not seeing myself represented in any of the other faces, a struggle that I am sure all POC at predominately white institutions are familiar with. It is hard to imagine a future for yourself in a place where no one looks like you. Or having to miss a AAA meeting because it was scheduled for the same time as the Bit mass meeting, an issue that never seemed as apparent as a Model UN schedule conflict. No one should be forced to choose between their identity and their passion.

I know firsthand the importance of representation because it is one of the things that first drew me to the Bit. I attended the accepted student brunch as a nervous eighth grader still unsure whether I wanted to attend GDS. Each club table lining the quiet side of the library was more intimidating than the last, but there at the Augur Bit table was an Asian writer, a face that showed me that it could be a place I could feel safe and welcome. 

I’m no stranger to standing out—I am one of two East Asian girls in the senior class (though teachers and coaches still struggle to tell me apart from the only other slightly ethnic-looking person in the room). I have become accustomed to occupying majority-white spaces—high-level math classes, cross country and crew, to name a few. Not seeing other faces of color has become such a norm for me that I have stopped questioning the problem with it and how to fix it, which is a privilege that I try not to let myself forget.

The Augur Bit is not the only club that has struggled with diversity in its leadership. Fata Morgana’s repeated choice of a white head over a black woman has ignited backlash all over social media. Despite the majority of their song choices and dances being rooted in black culture, Fata has failed to create an environment that lifts up black dancers in the same way it does white dancers. I know that GDS can do better. 

I often attempt to dissect why it is that many of the activities that I participate in end up being very white. Why am I comfortable in spaces where other POC are not? Does being a part of these communities make me a sellout? Do I subconsciously seek out these environments because I’ve always gone to school surrounded by white faces?

Not surprisingly, I still don’t have an answer to these questions. What I do know is that for me, the Augur Bit has been a place where I found my voice as a writer and leader. What I do know is that there is no one way to be a person of color. In majority-white spaces, someone who feels empowered is no less of a POC than someone who does not. As someone who feels empowered, I know that it is my duty to help make space for those who feel powerless. 

What I do know is that the Augur Bit needs more diversity of background, face and opinion if it wants to keep up with the ever-evolving times that we are living in. If you are a person of color and would like to tell your story, we would love to give you a platform to do so.  

Please reach out to me (tlynn21@gds.org) if you have any questions about the Bit or just want to talk. I am always open to suggestions about how to make the newspaper a more inclusive community. 

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