“I don’t say much, but when I do, you better listen.”
I got my undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley, a very progressive and open public university, and there were plenty of protests on campus from the black lives matter movement to high tuition fees. And if I learned one thing from my university education, it’s to use my voice. I don’t go out there and protest, but I know that words are a powerful weapon when used correctly. So that’s what I’m doing.
This blog isn’t a blog about politics, but I do feel like I should share this story because it has impacted my life in some way.
Back in my undergrad days, while I was walking home from class one day with my male friend, a ragged old white man was spouting nonsense and calling people that were walking by absurd names. I didn’t understand why he was doing that but I assumed it was because of the latest protest on campus, and so this man thought it was okay to say whatever he wants.
My friend and I walked passed him and he yelled at us, “Hey, you girl stopped!”
I wanted to avoid this guy and his nonsense so we pretended that we didn’t hear him and continued walking, but he yelled at us again, “You stopped!”
Reluctantly, my friend and I turned around.
And the old white man pointed specifically at me and said, “YOU’RE A TERRORIST. YOU DON’T BELONG HERE! GET OUT OF MY COUNTRY!”
I just gave the guy a puzzling look and said, “Ok….” I gave him the benefit of the doubt—I mean he could be drunk or completely high—but never in my life have I felt truly scared. If confronted, he looked like the type of guy that would physically attack someone. There were other people around us, but they only looked and stared. They didn’t do anything. In fact, I think they were scared too. Probably because of the crazy guy shouting nonsense, but also from the word, “terrorist” and the target of that word, me.
I wanted to walk away but was too scared to move. It wasn’t until I heard my friend said, “Let’s go,” that I started to move. And we walked away fast, but the guy continued to point at me and yell, “SHE’S A TERRORIST!”
When I got home, I wanted to cry because I was scared. I thought to myself, “I’m not a terrorist. I was born in the U.S. This is my home. Why was he thinking that?”
The only thing I could speculate his accusations on is the color of my skin. I have brown skin, black hair, and brown eyes. It was at that point where I became hyper aware of the word, “terrorist,” and all the stigmas and negativity that it brought to all different groups of innocent people. I was aware of it before, but I never thought people would be bold and ignorant enough to start freely labeling others as “terrorists” based on their race and religion without knowing them as individuals and also to spread fear over Islam to everyone (and yes, to me Islam is a religion and also I WAS TAUGHT TO RESPECT OTHER PEOPLE’S RELIGIOUS BELIEFS even if they aren’t the same as mine). It’s different when you are on the other side: the victim/the one accused. I always believe that a person’s character should be based on his or her personality, skills, and actions as oppose to their physical appearance. But from what I was exposed to, I realized that there are still people out there who think otherwise.
I’m telling you this story because right now people are scared and feel threatened due to the result of this election. However, just because you can’t control what’s going on outside of your life doesn’t mean you can’t change yourself as an individual. If you believe or want to believe in this ideology that a person’s character shouldn’t be based on their social class, gender, religion, race, and disabilities then put it into practice. If we START LISTENING to other people’s viewpoints and perspectives without this blaming, arguing and illogical nonsense, then CHANGE WILL HAPPEN. It may not happen right now, but it will in the future if we adopt a mindset that’s NOT marginalizing. This could only happen if you have a positive and open-minded perspective and spread it to others. By doing so, we can start resolving some important issues that influence our daily lives.