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Generation Z has grown up in a time where social media presence and activism, more often than not, go hand in hand. The widespread use of platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, and TikTok within the past decade has provided users with ways to engage in civic-related conversations and build a name for themselves when it comes to advocating for human rights. For someone like Christine Lee, social media presence is everything.
Interviewer: Sophia Delrosario and Alexis De Castro
Interviewee: Christine Lee
Sophia: First off, can you introduce yourself. Please tell us your background, interests, hobbies, and anything that makes you, you.
Christine Lee: Awesome! Hi, my name is Christine Lee. I am a Korean American, born and raised on the East Coast, and a rising sophomore at Harvard College. I am majoring in neuroscience with a potential minor in global health/health policy or ethnicity migration rights – I’m still figuring that out. I am very interested in neuroscience biology and health inequities in the United States. I think that’s something I’m really looking forward to working on in the future because I am on the pre-med track, so I want to go to med school someday. I am also interested in politics in the sense that I want it to be something that I engage with long term as a citizen in the U.S. In terms of hobbies, I love to draw, video editing, and graphic design. And I love Netflix [laughter] I love watching shows, in the middle of New Girls and it’s a really great show – so good. I am involved with a couple of different campaigns/companies. I am one of the campus strategists for Money Girls which is a company that focuses on empowering young women with financial knowledge, something that is often a bit taboo for women because it’s something that is not really talked about but can be very empowering when knowledge is used in the right way. Climate change activism: I’ve done some fundraising work in the past for that. And then, of course, these days, just joining in with the fight with raising awareness against racial inequalities, systemic racism, and just learning more. That’s what I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of lately, is just learning.
Alexis: You already elaborated a little bit, but if you wanted to talk more about some of the organizations, movements, and causes you support like Black Lives Matter, Asians for Black Lives, and also why they are important to you.
Christine: Yeah of course! I think coming from a household that is considered of a lower socioeconomic status and apart of a lower minority group in this country, I am Korean American, and then my experiences at a university that is highly regarded as elitist and, you know, so many systematic inequalities deeply ingrained into the way that top universities work and being exposed to that over this past year, I think I’ve become more reassured in my wish to uplift silenced voices. So that goes along with those affected by climate change. There are studies and a lot of research showing that its often those of minorities, Indigenous people, black people from poor communities, those are the people most affected by climate change. That’s something I’ve been looking more into. And, of course, Black Lives Matter, that’s all about target systemic racism in this country, and that affects all of that whether you are white, POCs, especially non-black POCs, that’s something really important for us to recognize as allies. That’s something I’ve been like most people learning a lot. As I said, I am really passionate about uplifting women in all these areas that they are so often shut out of such as the medical field, health field, with being more knowledgeable about finances, as I said. That’s always been something I personally feel insecure about and that’s why I decided to join Money Girls as a strategist to help spread that information that is so important for anyone, not just women, but anyone moving into careers, into professional fields. So things like that. I know this is kind of a buzzword but empowerment, and really spreading more knowledge that’s so important for all of us to have and be more aware of and recognizing our privilege in all these fields.
Alexis: Great! Please can you tell us about Harvard? I still think that it is insanely impressive that you go to Harvard. So elaborate on what you study and major in. I know you already said it. Regarding the application process, how has your experience been as a freshman, I believe or rising sophomore, and what you hope to do after graduation, like your favorite parts about it – the campus, student life – anything regarding college.
Christine: Yeah, of course! As I said, I am a rising sophomore at Harvard College and currently concentrating on neuroscience, but haven’t declared yet as a sophomore, and then I am considering a secondary in either global health/health policy or ethnicity, migration, and rights. Those are two secondaries I have always been tossing around but especially with these past few weeks have solidified my interest in either of them. Just as a general note, I feel like a good way to incorporate longterm allyship goals and social activism goals into any career, I think especially if you are on the higher education path would be to take on a secondary that allows you to explore classes that discuss these topics, so that’s something that I recently had affirmed to me by my advisor which is really great, so I am considering either of those. My experience as a freshman has been amazing. Really, really eye-opening and so encouraging for growth, learning, and exploring. It’s honestly been something that I am beyond grateful for because it allowed me to really feel safe in exploring my personal passions and being more outspoken about the causes I really care about that I felt were too much, too extreme, for a high school student, but I think something that I think is great about college, or at least about Harvard, is that you are welcome to really explore and embrace the learning and mistake-making process in all these things. So that’s something that I really loved about my freshman year. Like I said, I am currently on the pre-med track, so I hope to go into the medical field someday and go to medical school. Beyond that, I am still not sure where that will take me. I’ve been looking a lot more into community health care centers that’s something that’s really big and especially in underprivileged communities. I feel like that’s something I would love to do someday, some kind of work like that. I may do some research work; that would be really cool. So just a lot of different intersections for sure, but I’m leaning more towards the health field.
Alexis: Ok, so next, prior to this meeting I was looking at your Instagram and I saw your merch that you released for climate change.
Sophia: I saw the fundraiser and thought the merch was really pretty. Would you tell us more about the cause, what inspired you to create this fundraiser, and how you promoted and developed it?
Christine: Yeah sure! So first, thank you. I haven’t mentioned this yet, but I have a YouTube channel that I started kind of to document my life at Harvard. I think right now I have fifty thousand subscribers.
Sophia: Oh my god!
Christine: Yeah, thank you! So that’s really where I started with having an Instagram following, it started there where I just kind of vlogged my life at Harvard. It’s not linked anywhere right now just because I felt that it was taking away from bigger issues, but I do plan on making a video soon that is related to the Black Lives Matter Movement so I’ve been taking my time with this video because it is pretty special to me. That video will be uploaded soon, so I don’t know when this is going up, but I can certainly shout you guys out and let you know.
Sophia: Oh, thank you!
Christine: But yeah, how this all started was I got an email from an apparel company called Bonfire. They said that they loved my YouTube channel and they wanted to know if I would be willing to collaborate on creating merch. At first, I thought, “Why in the world would I make merch? Who would be interested in buying that from me?” So I was going to say “No,” but then I think one of my freshman year roommates suggested “Maybe you don’t have to make the merch about you? Maybe you can make it about something else?” I said, “That’s awesome! I will definitely look into that.” And I decided on making it a fundraiser for climate change awareness. Especially at that time, a lot of people were recognizing the detrimental effects of human activities on the Earth and the way UN reports were not looking particularly optimistic about the future of our world and the track that we were on in terms of in creating a more safe living environment for people across the world the way that all these effects are really adding up from centuries of human activities affecting the planet. So that’s something that was really a hot topic of conversations, not saying it’s irrelevant now, of course, it’s relevant every single day, but it was especially being discussed at that time. I figured maybe I could talk about that with my fundraiser and I reached back out to them and I said “Would you be willing to help me turn this into a fundraiser?” And low and behold, they actually started off as a fundraiser apparel company and had a lot of experience with it. I sent in pictures with my hands in particular poses like you saw from the design, and they had an amazing graphic designer who turned it into the design you see on the apparel. We worked together for a couple of months working on tweaking the design and talking about the logistics and then I ended up releasing it. I think it was up for just a few weeks. It was not that long term at all, but we were able to raise nearly a thousand dollars that we sent to Green Peace, a climate change NGO [Non-Governmental Organization], which I was really excited about. It was so exciting and I know all my friends and followers who bought merch also loved it. I was really proud of that and I think that was one of the first big things that I was able to do in terms of having a substantial effect with my platform both on Instagram and on YouTube, so that was really exciting for me. Of course, that was with the help of Bonfire. They had an amazing team that really worked with me on this. Overall it was a really cool process that I was happy to be apart of.
Alexis: Ok, so speaking social media platforms, you use your stories, posts, and other apps to promote issues and important topics to your large following. How does your social media play a role in spreading the word and how do you utilize this to get others involved? And how do you plan to be in the activist space in the future?
Christine: No worries. So like I said, Instagram and Youtube are my biggest platforms, especially YouTube because that’s where I have a lot of creative control over the way I document my life. Like I said, that’s where I posted vlogs of my life at Harvard and that started off more so for my own memories and I post informational videos about studying and applying. A lot of people look up to me as a role model, which is still very… discomforting, not in the sense that I’m not grateful, but it’s just so strange that I have an audience like that. Of course, I’m so, so grateful, and I definitely want to make sure that I always use my platform for good in that sense. I think especially, as of late, the idea of having a platform on social media to speak your mind on issues you care about to amplify other voices that are often silenced, all these concepts, I think, are especially coming to a realization for me where I realize I have a role to play in these conversations and sustaining them for the long term. So the way that I use my stories is just passing along my information, but I always try to be mindful of what I post because I want whatever I post to have the viewer look at it and reflect on themselves. Recently, over this past weekend, I made a politics themed story. It was this whole saga where I just talked about voting, the government, the structure of the government, and our duties as a citizen of the U.S to be knowledgable about these things because I was lucky enough to have a government class in high school and they were some of my favorites. That is knowledge that I know I can carry into the future, longterm. I think most of it has been about taking my experiences and projecting what I feel can be useful to others using those experiences. So something that is important to me in terms of being an activist in the future, especially with my Youtube, is showing how I can incorporate them into my day to day life. It doesn’t have to be something like a cross that you bear to the point of exhaustion, it should be something that we are mindful of an incorporate into the way that we think, what we study, into our spaces of medication and education and joy. All these things can intersect in a way that is sustaining activist work into the future. Especially because I know I want to enter the medical field someday, I think it is important to learn about ways I can incorporate activism when I become a doctor someday. I’ve been listening to this amazing podcast called Woke WOC Docs. It is basically these women of color who are doctors in the Bay area and they bring on guests who are doing amazing activist work, social justice work, community advocacy work as doctors and health practitioners. It so inspiring because all of their work is so different, yet all so clear in the way that they exhibit their passion for these things. I think that is something that I want to be able to show with the way that, you know as the years go by, in the way that I am working and the way I am learning and growing. I think just by showing me doing that as a fact, hopefully, that will be something that will be used to inspire others. So I think that it’s normalized.
Sophia: Okay, so you touched on how you are a pre-med student and I want to ask: how are you and other pre-med students help connect the bridge between humanities and science? And how can we further integrate these two fields of science and politics as they are now divided?
Christine: Great! So, I guess to start first talking about humanities and science, something that I am learning a lot on my pre-med path is that med schools and being in the medical field in general, it is very much an overlap of science and humanities, and that is something really important to keep in mind. It’s not all about hard organic chemistry or biology – I mean obviously that’s important to do your job – but it’s so much more than that because when you are out there and interacting with patients (i.e. family care/medicine), you’re not really thinking about structures of molecules, but instead think about how to interact and communicate with the patients and the system that is causing them pain. I think it’s really about thinking critically, especially if you want to do human advocacy work, thinking a lot about the history of underprivileged minority groups in this country, thinking a lot about health inequities that have perpetuated over time and have become embedded in the health care system of this country, thinking about the ways that minority groups have come up with alternative medical practices for themselves, especially, for example, in indigenous communities they are very much rooted in their culture of spiritual healing and meditation. Their culture is very much, unfortunately, being shut out. It’s disappearing. I think anyone who is interested in studying health care should keep in mind. Just thinking critically about all these things and recognizing there is so much more to health care than just hard science. To talk about politics in STEM, something that I learned about this past year was that having an M.D., you know a medical degree, is something that can actually be used to your advantage if you are advocating for health policy. There are so many groups and organizations of doctors, medical practitioners across the country who advocate for better health care, for better legislation that support those in underprivileged communities, who are shut out by the health care system and I think that is something really incredible in terms of being an intersection that is overlooked, yet so vital to sustaining work of social advocacy and racial justice. I think it’s a lot about being a little more creative with the ways beyond what is just conventional and recognizing there are so many opportunities to bridge the humanities and science of STEM and politics beyond what we assume when we are taught about these things before we enter college and learn about our careers. It’s about critical and creative thinking and having an open mind when approaching these fields.
Sophia: That was really good. You are so brilliant and every time you’re speaking, I think that everything you say is quotable because it is so well-spoken and elaborate, so I really commend you for that. I think it’s so incredible.
Christine: Aw, thank you!
Sophia: So you did touch on this before, but what are your thoughts on the current uproar of support for Black Lives Matter. You said you’ve noticed it has gained momentum, especially in these past few months. Have you been active in the matter?
Christine: Right, so, I think it’s important to preface this with saying that the Black Lives Matter movement wasn’t just born out of this uproar from these past few weeks. It has been going on for years in terms of the official movement but then centuries in terms of the struggle that the Black community in this country has had against systemic racism, white supremacy, racial injustices, so I think that’s something that’s really important to recognize – for all of us to recognize. But I think in terms of this current uproar of support, I think it was only a matter of time before it was finally really pushed into the mainstream spotlight, and I’m so happy that it has and so grateful because it’s really forced all of us – non black POC, the white community – everyone to really reflect on our actions, on our mindsets, on our own internalized racism, because we all have it, regardless, we all certainly have it, and to really lean into our discomfort surrounding these difficult to discuss issues, and in terms of the entire movement, I think a lot of people have been doing such great work in educating others within their own personal circles. I think that’s something that’s been the most progressing in terms of actually fighting for longterm change because it’s forcing people to have these uncomfortable discussions that we might have avoided in the past, and I think that’s the most important thing about this. In terms of what I’ve been doing, you know a lot of reading, a lot of researching, a lot of discussions with my friends, my family. I’ve been attending talks. I’ve been watching videos. Like I said, I’ve been thinking about ways I can incorporate it into my life so I think everyone – regardless of what field they’re entering, regardless of their goals for the future – should think about ways to incorporate this into their own career paths. STEM is obviously something that has a lot to discuss in terms of disproportionate representation for minority groups about systemic racism in academics. Just in general, there are a lot of conversations that can be had because this is so pervasive. The fact that it’s coming to light in the mainstream is something that we have to recognize is just the start. I just really hope that it’s just the start. I really don’t want this to fade out.
Alexis: As a part of Gen Z, how do you feel you and the rest of your generation can change the world?
Christine: I think that we can change the world by having conversations and communicating in ways that people in the past have not been able to because one of the biggest things that we have to our advantage is technology, the internet, social media. I think because of that, people are more capable of taking it into their own hands. People are more capable of taking the education process into their own hands, of teaching themselves about issues that they care about, of learning more quickly about what issues are most pressing, learning more about opportunities that they can take part in, and learning more about ways to impact not only their own communities but the world around us. That’s one of the biggest things I’m most hopeful about, is the way that we have technology to our advantage. I can definitely say the only reason I have a platform right now where so many people are listening to me is because of technology, because of platforms like YouTube and Instagram. And so many people can say the exact same thing. So I think that’s something that’s, again, the buzz word, empowering to know that it’s easy to be able to speak up on the issues that we want to speak up about without feeling discouraged because there are so many digital platforms upon which you can speak up. So I feel like that’s something that’s really important. Speaking a little bit more about my own personal experiences as an Asain American, something we have to our advantage, for sure, is we all, for the most part, come from immigrant families who are minority groups in this country in various ways: the LGBTQ+ community, various ethnic groups, those of lower socioeconomic status. The way that we can all, again, use technology to share and learn about other people’s experiences is one way that we can all be more compassionate and empathetic to others experiences because in the past, these kinds of groups have always had to look out for themselves, fend for themselves, and I think that’s where the seeds of systemic racism that were originally planted by white supremacy where able to grow in silence. So I think that with us being able to have these discomforting conversations, it’ll be really a catalyst to implementing long term change with the way that minority groups interact with each other and uplift each other. That’s the premise behind Asians for Black Lives. All these things, I think will be to our advantage as we enter into the world, into our futures, into our careers, the workplace. I think that’s something that we can all be really hopeful for.
Sophia: If there’s anything else you would like to add before I stop the recording, feel free to say so. But if not, that’s okay.
Christine: For anyone reading this, please please don’t be afraid to change your opinion about something after learning about the ways that maybe you were wrong about it previously. That’s something that’s so important to having engaging and meaningful conversations, is being open minded and willing to change. That’s something we can all just keep in the back of our minds moving forward with trying to sustain this long term.