This I Believe

Mohammad - san diego, California
Entered on November 29, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: prejudice

My first memories as a child were of a street parade in Wichita Falls, Texas. I remember my dad lifting me up on his shoulders as a float of the beloved Ronald McDonald passed by. It’s true that the sight of an enormously sized clown would strike fear into the hearts of almost any toddler. However I was more puzzled by the fact that the features of this symbol of American culture and customs that was revered by the masses as it slowly passed along the small town’s main street, although grossly exaggerated, looked nothing like me. Ronald, with his fiery red hair, white skin and underlying Anglo features was a conflicting image of me with my straight black hair, golden-brown skin and blatantly ethnic physical traits.

Looking back, this event is what I figure laid the foundation of my pessimistic perspective on how society viewed me, as a minority. I believe my parents did an excellent job teaching my siblings and I that, no matter what we looked like, what language we spoke, or what we believed in, no one was better than us based on these superficial attributes, and instilling in us that we should never let someone tell us we cannot do anything based on those. Although in my early life I cannot recall any instances where I was blatantly discriminated against because of my race, religion, or ethnicity, I can however recollect many times where it seems that my ethnic background has played a secondary role in my rejection from certain social groups, gatherings, and activities. As time progressed, so did my childhood idols, from Ronald McDonald to Superman to G.I. Joe and so forth, however the symbols and imagery that accompanied each did not. The muscular All-American male, with his protruding butt chin and pasty white skin, saving the world all by his lonesome or, even better, accompanied by his clumsy bumbling sidekick (who conveniently always seemed to be a minority). These images further solidified my presumption that the majority group in America viewed itself as being better than, not only me, but the rest of the world.

This conjecture of mine was crushed by the most unlikely and tragic of occurrences. September 11th 2001 was a day in which the whole world changed, much of that change was negative, but even through this most epic of tragedies, rays of hope and unity seeped through. I was ready to notch another piece of evidence in my ever growing case of cynicism in society after I, a junior in high school, was personally accused of having something to do with the unspeakable events that transpired days before, solely for the fact that I looked Middle Eastern, by a random patron at a coffee shop. However, after this individual left, something happened that I did not expect, one after another individuals came up to me apologizing over and over for the comments of the woman, for whom none of them knew. It caught me off guard and affected my life forever. I believe hate appears to be abundant in this world; I believe that the fact that we as a population see it everyday on TV, the streets, and in our personal lives makes it seem to some to be insurmountable. However I believe that one small showing of the unity of the human race, no matter the race, creed or culture, is enough to break through walls of isolation hate has constructed. I believe I look nothing like Ronald McDonald, but love him just the same.