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(De)Legitimizing Voices; Questioning Inclusivity
Suchitra Shenoy Packer
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Suchitra Shenoy Packer

Founder & Editor-in-Chief at the Parent Voice, Magazine
Suchitra has previously worked as a journalist, a PR officer, and a professor. She is currently a stay-at-home-working-mom to two multiracial kids, the inspiration behind theParentVoice,.
Suchitra Shenoy Packer
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This editorial column is being published in advance of its September 1 release due to the nature of events unfolding in the United States. The views expressed are entirely mine and do not speak for theParentVoice.Com or any of its team members.
(Original Date of Publication – August 18, 2017)


I think all month about my editorial space. I take the responsibility of representing theParentVoice, very seriously and yet, at no point do I want my voice to be the one to speak for all of us here, behind-the-scenes. Not only is that not fair, it goes against tPV,’s core value – our strong belief in the multiplicity of equally legitimate voices; whether we agree with them or not.

In light of certain events that have unfolded over the last few weeks here in the United States, this very value of ours has gotten shaken up. It is impossible to stay neutral or worse, ignore what is happening around us. It behoves us to challenge the status quo, to step up, to take a stand, and indeed boldly admit that some voices are just not quite legitimate and absolutely should not have a place in civil society or any society, for that matter.

The very definition of inclusivity may need to be reimagined to include elements of exclusivity in it.

I respect free speech. However, I do not respect all speech as free speech. I take First Amendment Rights as one of the finest values of our country, the United States, but how can one stay silent when hate speech and hate crimes get excused under these very same “rights? When the rights of individuals get trampled upon, literally and figuratively, no matter how inclusive we would like to think of ourselves as individuals and the team of tPV,, even we have to face the harsh truth that inclusivity may just need to be explained with certain disclaimers from now on. In other words, the very definition of inclusivity may need to be reimagined to include elements of exclusivity in it.

Mila Versteeg articulates these sentiments in the context of Europe when she writes:

European free-speech doctrine is based on the idea that free speech is important but not absolute, and must be balanced against other important values, such as human dignity. As a result, freedom of expression can be restricted proportionally when it serves to “spread, incite, promote or justify hatred based on intolerance.” The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, an international human rights treaty, reflects similar principles. This balancing of free speech against other values led Germany to ban parties with Nazi ideologies and recently, to prosecute Chinese tourists who performed a Hitler salute in front of the Reichstag. It led France to outlaw the sale of Nazi paraphernalia on eBay, led Austria to jail a discredited historian who denies the holocaust, and caused the Netherlands to criminalize the selling of Mein Kampf.

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If you follow our social media, you know which way we lean. We have never shied away from expressing how we feel. While our social media platforms represent the Magazine, and in so doing, all of us who make up the core Team of tPV, as the founder and editor-in-chief, I shoulder the ultimate responsibility of the messages we promote using these media including their outcomes.

Therefore, you may notice a certain restraint in what and how much we choose to express.

That hesitation stems from my personal fear.

You see, I am not yet a U.S. citizen. I recently got my green card after spending 17 legal years under various visa statuses. I do not yet qualify for citizenship despite being married to a US Citizen for 5 years and being the mother of two who are also US citizens. I am scared. I am worried and my worries can only be understood by other immigrant mothers, especially immigrant mothers of color.

It is the fear that stems from not knowing which way the political winds are blowing or when they may suddenly change directions. It is the fear that stems from knowing that as fickle-minded as this Government is, a new law may suddenly make it illegal for non-US spouses and/or mothers of US citizens from getting citizenship. It is the fear that stems from worrying that my family and I may be torn apart from each other because the Government decides to ban all Indian citizens from living here. It is the fear that the Government may decide one day that all unemployed and overweight brown-skinned petite Indian women will be deported overnight.

 

In reality, despite some factors that marginalize me in the US, I do live a very privileged life and I am well aware of this. Should I not get citizenship in the United States, I can always return to India. Moving to Canada is also a real option for us. I am smart, have two advanced degrees, have a loving and supportive family on both sides, am able-bodied, culturally competent, open to new learnings and experiences, and in general, a very adaptable person.

The fear however, stems from not being able to claim my space in my adopted home. That, I as an immigrant woman of color, with or without my privileges, still need to be cautious about what I say and do for fear of angering the immigration gods and the unpredictable Government.

It is the fear that for all my years of education, my professional expertise and experiences teaching thousands of students in four different US states, my contributions to my family and all the places where I have worked, the economy, and everything else that makes me, me, can be obliterated because of one statement or one opinion I or a member of tPV, team may share on our social media. Even as I take strategic stances against what is happening around me, either as an individual or as a representative of this Magazine, I am scared enough that the very same rights that may one day be bestowed on me as a citizen of the United States (hopefully) now give me reason to pause. I can only imagine the extent of these fears for other immigrants of color who may not have the same privileges as I do.

Yet, we will continue our efforts in the right direction. We may be restrained in our expressions but we will not be quiet. We have a voice(s) and albeit a little shocked and a little scared, it is a whole lot emboldened because we know that the non-legitimate and “exclusive” voices of the few DO NOT represent the voices of the majority of this great nation. We refuse to remain quiet. We refuse to be silenced. You will continue to hear from us. You will continue to read from us. The words may not necessarily be ours, yet, but we condone and unless otherwise stated, certainly endorse the ones we proudly share on our social media and other platforms.

Here’s hoping next month’s column is a happier one…

Yours truly,

 

 

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Suchitra Shenoy Packer
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Suchitra Shenoy Packer

Founder & Editor-in-Chief at the Parent Voice, Magazine
Suchitra has previously worked as a journalist, a PR officer, and a professor. She is currently a stay-at-home-working-mom to two multiracial kids, the inspiration behind theParentVoice,.
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Suchitra has previously worked as a journalist, a PR officer, and a professor. She is currently a stay-at-home-working-mom to two multiracial kids, the inspiration behind theParentVoice,.

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