White women need to stop trampling over women of color in the march for gender equality.

Jasmin Kaur’s poem got an unwelcome internet edit, and her response is something all white feminists need to read.

Punjabi-Sikh poet Jasmin Kaur recently posted a poem on Instagram that many women have found cathartic, especially while accused sexual assault perpetrators continue to be placed in the highest positions in the land.

The poem reads, "scream / so that one day / a hundred years from now / another sister will not have to / dry her tears wondering / where in history / she lost her voice."

A white feminist crossed out the word "scream" and wrote in the word "vote."

Kaur's original poem was well received by thousands of women. Then, a white woman took the liberty to change the first word from "scream" to "vote." The altered version of the poem (which has now been removed from the originator's page) was shared tens of thousands of times in largely white feminist circles.

Screenshot via Priya Hubbard/Facebook.

Before we get into the reasons why race matters here, it's worth pointing out that changing the words of anyone's poetry is a no-no. Poets painstakingly choose every word; it's the nature of the art form.

Changing a word fundamentally changes someone's work. Don't do that.

But the issue goes far beyond the purity of poetry.

Kaur explained in an Instagram post why the "edit" was problematic—and the irony in having her words colonized.

On her website, Kaur says that her written work “explores otherness, decolonization and the beauty of resistance” and “acts as a means of healing and reclaiming identity.” So the coopting of her work by a white American is perfectly and sadly ironic.

"As a kaur — a Sikh woman — I write to disrupt my erasure from the world," Kaur wrote. "From media, from feminist discourse, from social justice spaces, from everywhere. This poem, specifically, was inspired by my reflection on the way that kaur voices have been erased from history in many ways and the pain I have felt as a direct result of that."

"I didn't expect women of other communities to engage with this piece the way they did, but it was surprising and cool. I recognize that there is so much overlap in the experiences of marginalized women across the world."

View this post on Instagram

The irony of this shitty poem edit is so blatant that I need to unpack it. Recently, a terribly edited version of one of my poems started making its rounds in white feminist spaces (swipe). The word scream was replaced with vote. I figured that people would clearly be able to see how this isn't cool, but I guess I was wrong. Let's break this down. As a kaur - a Sikh woman - I write to disrupt my erasure from the world. From media, from feminist discourse, from social justice spaces, from everywhere. This poem, specifically, was inspired by my reflection on the way that kaur voices have been erased from history in many ways and the pain I have felt as a direct result of that. I didn't expect women of other communities to engage with this piece the way they did, but it was surprising and cool. I recognize that there is so much overlap in the experiences of marginalized women across the world. The issue is that overlap in experience ≠ the same experience. When the word scream was changed to vote, someone made several shitty assumptions: 1. That my words were directed specifically at their neo-liberal political experiences of Amerikkka 2. That I made a mistake in explaining how to confront injustice and erasure 3. That my voice doesn't actually matter in a poem about my voice. Point 3 is the most important here, I think. The imagery of a Sikh woman's voice being erased from yet another space that she tries to exist within is too much. To edit my ideas without permission for your own interests is peak white entitlement. It says that my voice doesn't matter unless it suits your specific needs. It says that you don't know anything about me + that you don't need to. I write to exist. To be seen. To hold a mirror up to myself + women who look like me. In a world that very selfishly consumes the work of women of colour and marginalized folks. If you share my poetry (or your version of my poetry) without actually understanding who I am and why I am, you're engaging in my work passively. If you, as a white person, feel that I matter so little within the context of what I create that you can remove me from the work all together, you're colonizing my poetry.

A post shared by jasmin kaur (@jusmun) on

"The issue is that overlap in experience ≠ the same experience. When the word scream was changed to vote, someone made several shitty assumptions:

1. That my words were directed specifically at their neo-liberal political experiences of Amerikkka

2. That I made a mistake in explaining how to confront injustice and erasure

3. That my voice doesn't actually matter in a poem about my voice."

As a white woman in the U.S., that first point struck a chord. I am witness to, if not a part of, these white feminist circles Kaur speaks of. I saw this edited version of her poem shared in my Facebook feed several times.

The woman who altered the poem probably had good intentions and didn't give a thought to the background of the woman who wrote it. But that's the problem. We assume we have good intentions, but don't think beyond ourselves. We don't take the time to examine whether our actions might be adding to the oppression of a marginalized person or group. We assume everything is ours for the taking, without being consciously aware or acknowledging that that's what we tend to do.

As a result, we constantly make it so that women of color have to expend emotional labor to (hopefully) increase our understanding of our own actions. And too often, when confronted, we deny that we do all of the above.

If you still don't understand why the edit was a problem, Kaur breaks it down further.

Kaur explains how this woman essentially colonized her poetry:

"Point 3 is the most important here, I think. The imagery of a Sikh woman's voice being erased from yet another space that she tries to exist within is too much. To edit my ideas without permission for your own interests is peak white entitlement. It says that my voice doesn't matter unless it suits your specific needs. It says that you don't know anything about me + that you don't need to.

I write to exist. To be seen. To hold a mirror up to myself + women who look like me. In a world that very selfishly consumes the work of women of colour and marginalized folks. If you share my poetry (or your version of my poetry) without actually understanding who I am and why I am, you're engaging in my work passively. If you, as a white person, feel that I matter so little within the context of what I create that you can remove me from the work all together, you're colonizing my poetry."

She's right. Sure, the edited version still credits Kaur as the poem's creator. But to change that creation without permission, to place our own desire for political change over the voices around the world who may be denied that power, to imply that the American privilege of casting a ballot is an inherently superior method of revolution than raising the a female voice—all of that is wrong.

White women must be mindful of how we may be trampling over women of color in the march for gender equality—by erasing their unique experiences, silencing their voices, and coopting their efforts, and denying that we do all of the above. Our impact trumps our intent. Every time.

This article originally appeared on August 27, 2015

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Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."