Tuesday Spotlight: Kasheka Chitkara

Kasheka Chitkara is a sophomore at Bryant University, hailing from Cape Cod. She studies Management and Sociology, and loves dogs. Movies and binge watching TV shows on Netflix are a number one pastime, with SVU  being a favorite. Kasheka involves herself in multiple student efforts on campus that fight for human rights and justice for all.

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FB: Netflix or Hulu?

KC: Oh, Netflix. Netflix has almost every episode of SVU.

Kasheka is a passionate individual that strives to understand the social inequalities we see on a daily basis. Whether it is issues of race, gender, or ethnicity, she is ready to fight for what’s right and is knowledgeable on the roots of social issues. If you are looking for a someone trying to shake up how you view the world, this is the gal you want to talk to.

“The fact that I can just get out of bed is a huge thing for me.” For many years, Kasheka struggled with mental illness—but that hasn’t stopped this lady. She is motivated by the small things, such as getting up in the morning. She knows that in doing so she gets a chance, every day, to contribute to making the world just a bit better. Her determined attitude and ready demeanor is the cherry on top. No large feat was completed in a single day, right?

Kasheka explains that her greatest goals in life are tied into her studies right now. “The big dream is making a change, which is why I’m majoring in business because I feel like business is a major force in our society.” She hopes that by getting into business and working her way up, she might have an influence within the private sector. “Business runs media,” she says, and adds that with a good team and the right people, business might be able to use media to stand for social advocacy.

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Each and every day I try to advocate for what I believe in, and all the civil rights I believe in.

Along with her studies, Kasheka is involved in student clubs, namely Alliance for Women’s Awareness (AWA) as Vice President, and an executive board member of ONE. AWA puts on events for students that talk about gender and serve as a group that sheds light on gender inequality. ONE raises awareness about global poverty and uses civic engagement to spur change. Basically, she is using all of her time as an individual—studies included—to work toward a more egalitarian future.

“The biggest struggle within being a woman, within being Indian, within being a person of color… is knowing that my feelings are valid.” Much of Kasheka’s desire to create positive change comes from growing up as a woman of color. If there is someone who is making sexist jokes or racist comments, say something. She finds that most of the time, people perpetuate inequalities by invalidating the feelings of those who are experiencing the inequalities themselves.

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You don’t need to calm down. There’s no reason to calm down. Stay angry.

She tributes much of her attitude toward making social change to this quote: “If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention.” Young women tend to be silenced most, in her experience. Kasheka has often been labeled as the ‘crazy liberal’. While this brought her down and inevitably silenced her and her opinions, she came to learn that being silent only perpetuates social problems. “That’s a tool for people who don’t want change, is to tell you to be quiet.” Your voice is your power; use it.

Much of the social inequalities in our society take root in microaggressions. “If you don’t fight the microaggressions right when they happen, it’s never going to change.” Among her causes are women’s rights, racial inequality, ethnic inequality, and LGBTQ+ rights. The microaggressions we see in the LGBTQ+ realm, for example, go back to the fragile state of mainstream Western masculinity. “How do you tell people that it is okay to not be masculine?”

This issue of masculinity is extremely ingrained in culture, and is also part of why sexism toward women exists. Masculinity is praised whereas femininity is told to hide away. Kasheka says that her problem is not with those who are masculine, but with a society that just keeps pushing for the superiority of one gender over another. “The only thing that we can really do is facilitate an environment where people know it’s okay to express themselves no matter their gender.”

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We’re just humans. We shouldn’t be forced to have these standards shoved down our throats our entire lives.

Of course, men are affected by sexism too, just in different ways. She clarifies to me that as a feminist, she stands for the equality of all genders for whatever might stand in their way to acceptance. At the end of the day, Kasheka explains that this sort of change comes from within; no one can make another person change what they believe in. That is why positive change takes so long to come about.

To other young women, she wants them to know and acknowledge that their feelings are valid, always. “You’re allowed to be upset. There’s no reason you should be quiet about something.” She can recount the times she has stayed silent, and wishes she had spoken up. No one should have to subjected to the repercussions of social inequality, and everyone has a right to their voice. It’s a simple tool, with the power to dismantle even the greatest of inequalities.

As a final word from Kasheka, I asked her how many times on average she hurts herself trying to dance in the shower. “I think I was singing Sweet Caroline, and I was having a moment, and then I knocked down the shampoo bottles down, and they landed on my toe!” This never happens less than once weekly while fighting the powers that be.

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