My Foreign Cultures professor and I had a heartbreaking talk today.
She told me about a time when she was discriminated against back in 1981. She was studying abroad for the first time in France. But she came a little too soon after the Gulf War and the French hated the Americans. And they blamed her for everything. France wasn’t all she imagined it to be, so she left after six weeks and she never returned for another twenty years.
I told her about the times everyone stared at me in orchestra during a moment of silence to honor those who sacrificed their lives in 9/11. I told her how I went home and cried my eyes out. Almost every night, for four years, I cried because my classmates whispered insults about me. I cried because I had tried so hard to fit in and they still hated me because I was brown. I cried because my teachers didn’t help. But I didn’t leave like she did — I just learned to block it off.
I figured out how to use an earphone and a phone. I learned to safe my tears for before bed. So during school I was mostly stoic. Any friends I had made would ignore me in the weeks leading up to the 9/11 anniversary, I found a hiding spot by the gym to wait for my ride after school. My classmates’ parents would give me side glances once in awhile. I would hear them tell their children to “be careful with those people.”
But that went on almost regularly for years and I had bigger problems at home to worry about. I think I kind of put all those worries aside until now.
It doesn’t matter now that I say I don’t believe in organized religions. It doesn’t matter now that I say I love this country. I am stuck with the label “terrorist.” Nothing I can say or do will change their minds. The hardest thing is trying to explain something to someone who’s already made up their minds.
People still tell their children to be careful of being associated with me. They still tell them that I’m only using them because I’m a “terrorist.” They’ve progressed to telling me to “go back to wherever the hell” I came from. And it hurts, it’s insulting. I can’t go home to my dad and cry to him anymore. I can’t say anything or they’ll pick on me some more. There’s nothing I can say.
I can only apologize. I sincerely apologize for the act of terrorism comitted on US soil in the name of God — I promise, I had nothing to do with it; I was three years old and I was on the other side of the world. I sincerely apologize to every one and his/her family who has been shot by an armed officer — I promise, not all cops are bad; I want to be a cop. I sincerely apologize to anyone being treated unfairly because of gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, or the color of your skin— I promise, you’re not alone and it’s not your fault.
I can also promise. I promise that I will rise against the stereotypes and the labels given to me. I promise to accomplish and excel each and everyone of my goals so that I can better serve this country. I promise, that once I became a member of law enforcement, I will enforce and defend the Constitution for the good of this country. I promise that I will stay true to myself and I won’t let anyone drag me down.