Let’s Stand Up and Fight for What We Believe In

Yara Slaton
December 15, 2016

According to the narrative the world tells about people like me, I should never have graduated from college with a 4.0 GPA. I should never have been chosen as commencement speaker. I probably should never have made it to college at all.

Lately I’ve been thinking about the idea of a “single story.” As described by the inimitable Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the single story “shows people as one thing, and only one thing, over and over again” until “it flattens their story and becomes a stereotype.”

To many people, I’m simply a teenage pregnancy statistic, an immigrant, or yet another woman of color who has lived in poverty. The single story is so dangerous because it dictates what I should settle for, and what I should be happy with. It is not only born out of — but also creates — fear.

Right now, more than ever, I reject that fear. I reject the idea that I should settle, remain silent, or be ashamed of my story — a story with beautiful, imperfect edges that spans continents, cultures, and every kind of border. I’m a proud mother, an immigrant, an Egyptian, an American, a United States Army veteran, and a college graduate.

I’m also an advocate with a burning desire to leave my footprint on the world.

It’s easy to feel disheartened right now, to think of our country as one big single story that is rushing noisily past us. It’s easy to feel powerless and cynical. But if I had given up every time I felt that way, I would not be where I am today.

So here’s an idea: let’s organize and fight for what we believe in. I believe in our collective power, and I believe in RESULTS.

I worked full-time to put myself through college while also caring for my young daughter. It was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done, and I depended on federal programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit and SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) to survive. These programs helped me to not only get a college degree, but also to begin the slow climb out of poverty. They allowed me to defy the demeaning narrative about women living in poverty. They allowed me to forge my own path.

That’s why I will fight harder than ever if these programs are threatened in 2017. I still struggled to get by even with this very basic “safety net” — but without it I don’t know what I would have done. Eroding these programs would make things even worse for millions of Americans working hard but still living in poverty. We can’t let that happen.

I’ll also keep fighting to ensure that people all over the world have access to lifesaving medical treatment, education, and economic opportunity. Fighting poverty — which is really the fight against injustice — is more important now than perhaps ever before.

So let’s come together as a community of advocates to reject racism, bigotry, xenophobia, and fear. Let’s embrace our differences and common humanity. Let’s be overwhelmed by the opportunity rather than the obstacle. We may not win every battle, but we will stand up for what’s right. We will raise our voices, and we will be heard.

Yara Slaton is a volunteer advocate with the RESULTS group in Boise, Idaho.