It’s late Sunday night and I’m laying in my bed with all the lights off. I can see the lit-up skyline of Tokyo from my apartment window. It’s that agonizing period before fading into sleep when I have to fight my brain to switch off the incessant and pestering thoughts. I can’t sleep, so I decide to turn to the screen of my iPhone. I start off with Instagram, casually scrolling through trivial pictures and occasionally smiling or laughing at one. Next, I turn to Facebook, catching up on the lives of my older relatives and getting a healthy dose of memes. Lastly, I decide to check the “good stuff”…the stuff that always captivates me in some capacity: the news. As the CNN app loads, I start to consider my relationship with news and how it has changed and developed throughout the course of this academic year – at Colby and during my time abroad in Tokyo.
I’ll start off by saying that the news both excites me and scares me. The news provides me with information about the current state of affairs in my country – which is presently very tumultuous. The impact that news has on me fluctuates depending on my circumstance and locale, often producing affect if I have a personal connection to the topic at hand. Recently, I’ve felt as though I always have some sort of linkage to the affairs being broadcasted. During the first half of this academic year, I was dealing with a myriad of issues at my home institution that reflected a lot of the things that I was reading about on the news.
According to numerous Colby students, a group of white students threw a Halloween party that negatively impacted the black community and Colby as a whole. Students4Change drafted a response to the Colby community, which read: “At this party, a group of white Colby students threw a Halloween party and chose to dress as ‘convicts’ in orange jumpsuits, with big gold hoop earrings and big gold chains. Some also chose to write the word ‘AFRICA’ across their bodies and draw fake tears on their faces (a symbol heavily related to gang culture). There were also students who chanted ‘Africa, Africa, Africa.’ Due to these events, students in the Colby community at wide, but specifically members of the Black community, were heavily impacted. Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident. Bias incidents that target marginalized identities have historically impacted the lives of students on campus.” When I was dealing with these incidents and I opened the news to find out that another black person was shot, that a synagogue was massacred, or that a piece of racist legislature was passed, it took a major toll on me.
In Tokyo, my relationship to news has evolved in a slightly different manner. Yes, I have experienced isolated instances of racism and prejudice here, but they have been minuscule in comparison to what I was dealing with at my home institution at the beginning of the semester. When I open the news and read about the mess that my country has become, my response surprises me. I now feel a degree of distance from the painful climate of my country that used to heavily cloud my vision. Previously, I would spiral and obsess (perhaps an unhealthy amount) about the things that I was reading on the news. Now I’m able to consider these issues calmly and pragmatically, considering effective ways to counter the problems that I read about. When I look at the news, anger no longer engulfs me in the same way. To a certain extent, I’m able to take a step back – a reflective stance. I’m not sure whether or not this is a good or bad thing. I think being an informed citizen is a fundamental part of my identity and incredibly important. However, given the current state of affairs in America, I think living in Tokyo and my distance from it all is a crucial step for my process of healthy reflection.