My eyes opened slowly, flicking toward the window for a split second, revealing a dreary February morning. A sense of contentment greeted my consciousness as I yawned and stretched and sprawled out on my bed.
Many would find this weather upsetting, but I was caught up on my schoolwork, momentarily free of stress and deadlines, and eager to spend a relaxed day inside. After waking up completely, I immediately sought out my favorite video game: Minecraft. My childhood was filled with seemingly endless days of building and creating worlds on the computer, so this imaginative game managed to weave its way through to my present life.
A specific experience in the game involves a necessary defense against “pillagers,” hostile mobs that raid a village in an attempt to overthrow it. When I recently found myself in this situation, I was clueless and ended up fleeing the village to preserve my “lives.”
So, before I opened Minecraft the upcoming morning, I googled with enthusiasm, “how to prepare for a raid.” I was expecting to learn how to build a protective wall around the village, the best tools to use, or possibly how to protect the villagers from harm. However, my search results fabricated something entirely different than what I anticipated.
My entire body froze for a moment, and only my eyes were left repeatedly scanning the first result, “How to Prepare Yourself for an Immigration Raid.” My mindset immediately shifted -- I was brought from a seemingly innocent Google search to something drastic and vastly unrecognized.
A mix of emotions flooded my senses as the phrases “stay calm, do not run” and “ask for a lawyer, remain silent” seemed to protrude through the screen. Immediately, I was taken aback. Here I was, seeking harmless information on a childhood-favorite game, while the harsh reality endured by many immigrants glared back at me, as if it was angry it wasn’t acknowledged sooner.
I grew up with parents who emphasized the importance of acceptance, education and empathy. From a young age, I understood that I was privileged in multiple ways; though I’ve experienced hardships, grief, and instability, I understand none of it stems from my skin color, my financial status, or my abilities. I’ve always seen myself as well-rounded in that aspect, but this experience revealed that I should never be entirely satisfied with the knowledge I have.
As the words appeared on my screen, I wasn’t immediately reminded of my luck or my advantage, but rather made aware of my ignorance. I was left wondering what I could make of this information, and what else I would possibly stumble upon in the future that I harbored such little recognition of. Even though I can empathize, I will never be subject to an ICE raid, questioned about my documentation, or taken from my family.
For a while, I was completely lost. It was immensely difficult to accept the fact that I didn’t possess the power to change the way the system perceives human rights. However, in Minecraft, the player begins with nothing. Over time, as they gather resources, their world expands and their creations spread and flourish, and I realized that is precisely how I need to perceive the situation.
I discovered that no matter how little I begin with, I need to start somewhere, and no matter how much knowledge I think I hold, there is always room for expansion. In order to make substantial change, I need to collect information and resources, sharing it with those around me, doing everything possible to create an accepting environment wherever I am. I need to use my own voice to uplift the voices of those who struggle to be heard. We all do.
Grace Sprecher is a senior at Mayo High School. Send comments on teen columns to Jeff Pieters, email@example.com.