Union Board coordinated a panel Monday night called “The Evolution of Revolution,” which featured five women of color who spoke about how activism has changed in recent years before taking questions from the audience.
Topics included social justice reform, youth development, Islamaphobia and women’s rights, and audience members were eager to seek the panelists’ advice on being agents for change in each of these areas.
As one of those eager audience members, I considered what I, a white woman with privilege and access to a platform to express myself, can do to speak up for others without speaking over them. For the next few weeks, I will be featuring columns that tell the stories of Hoosier women who deserve to have their voices heard.
An informal meet-and-greet followed the panel, at which point I found myself nervously sipping complementary lemonade and trying to work up the courage to talk to Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, founder and editor-in-chief of an online publication called “Muslim Girl,” which strives to normalize Muslim media representation.
The site has attracted a global following, and Al-Khatahtbeh has been changing the world since she was in high school – she regularly makes appearances on CNN and BBC and has given talks for TEDx and the United Nations Youth Assembly.
However, whatever intimidation I felt at her accomplishments, Al-Khatahtbeh’s openness and enthusiasm when I approached her with my question reminded me that the benefits of the chance to learn something always outweigh the risks of stepping outside your comfort zone.
She explained the idea of “passing the mic,” which “Muslim Girl” frequently promotes, as a way for those in positions of social power to allow members of minority communities to speak for themselves.
“We have this idea that people with privilege need to speak for the voiceless, but the truth is that no one is truly voiceless,” she said.
She’s right — everyone deserves a chance to tell their own story. While it may be true that any IU student, regardless of characteristics like race and gender, has the opportunity to become a columnist, journalists are not the only people whose voices need to be heard.
I had mentioned my column to Al-Khatahtbeh when I explained my question, and she suggested that I share the space I had secured for myself with women of color who had important perspectives to share but who weren’t regularly writing for the Indiana Daily Student.
Amplifying those voices is a great way for myself and other similarly privileged individuals to make productive, positive use of our position in society. Doing so is, in fact, our responsibility.
“When you have the power to speak, sometimes the best thing you can do is to pass the mic,” Al-Khatahtbeh said.
I’ve written about a slew of different issues in my two-semester tenure as a columnist, and I’ll have plenty more opportunities during my time at IU to speak my mind. But for now, it’s time to pass the mic and share my platform.
I look forward to providing you with a series of columns in the coming weeks that tells the stories of Hoosier women who were kind enough to trust me with their words. Women’s History Month might be coming to a close, but we can never stop learning from the amazing women with whom we share this campus.