Lydia Ghuman talks about social justice advocacy and her changed view of MSA

Ghuman: “If you help the most marginalized group in any community, it’s going to help the most privileged as well. We are all tied together.”

Lydia Ghuman became a social justice advocate by growing up as a mixed child in a white-dominated space, even if she didn’t see it that way at the time.

“My friends used to say the N-word around me, and they thought that was OK,” she said. “But in white spaces, that generally doesn’t get challenged. So a lot of my lived experience has been advocacy.”

During her freshman year at MU, Ghuman became involved in social justice organizations like Diversity Peer Educators and the Feminist Student Union. Those organizations and her participation in Mizzou Alternative Breaks shaped her into a leader in the social justice community.

Now, Ghuman is co-president of the FSU and a student coordinator of DPE, and she’s running for vice president of the Missouri Students Association.

Her only MSA involvement was briefly holding the chief inclusion officer position under the short-lived Haden Gomez administration.

“MSA was never something on my mind, it was never something (presidential candidate Andrew Hutchinson and I) planned to do,” she said.

Had the events of last semester never happened, Ghuman said she probably wouldn’t have ever run for MSA. She said, at most, she considered joining the Social Justice Committee, but other people talked her out of it.

“As a freshman, I was really interested in MSA, and I volunteered for the first couple of weeks with them and did activities, but I heard from a lot of people that if you wanted to create social change, it’s just not a place to do it,” she said.

Ghuman described MSA as intimidating to “non-MSA people” and especially to minorities. She said she didn’t want to run because she knew her and Hutchinson’s lack of experience would be used against them. She thought MSA not only failed to include diverse voices, but also failed to attract them.

“It’s kind of only open to a select few identities,” Ghuman said. “If you’re feeling excluded by your student government, why would you want to join it if it doesn’t feel welcoming to your identity?”

By running for MSA, she hopes to lift up the entire MU community by focusing on those who are at the biggest disadvantage.

“If you help the most marginalized group in any community, it’s going to help the most privileged as well,” she said. “We are all tied together.”

Edited by Waverly Colville | wcolville@themaneater.com

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