Growing up in New York, I had a fabulous life. I had everything I could ever imagine and more. When I was little I had many friends, and we used to always play outside in the street and have really good times. Well, all of that changed, I was in school one day sitting in religion class, when all of a sudden, an announcement came on the intercom: “There is a terrorist attack!” Everyone’s parents rushed into the school like a swarm of bees and immediately took their children home. After this day, I was looked at as a different person, like a vicious lion secretly stalking his prey and waiting to attack. The reason for all of this is because I am Arabic. People think I’m someone else when I am not, but I have learned to let none of this bother me and stop me from succeeding. I believe in taking pride in who I am.
I am not a Caucasian, nor a Black-American. I am an Arab-American. I take pride in who I am and wouldn’t have it any other way. People who I don’t know sometimes think I am Puerto Rican or Italian, but when I tell them I am Arabic, they think of me as an evil person because of what happened on September 11, 2001. I don’t let any of this bother me because I set all of the hatred to the side and put myself forward.
A great number of Arab people I know, some friends and some family, try to hinder themselves by slowly running away from their essence instead of overcoming it. They isolate themselves from society and hide their own identities by dressing up different and even rejecting their cultures’ own traditions. I don’t isolate myself and I also don’t hinder myself in anything I do. Actually, what I do is believe in myself and cherish my cultures traditions. There was a picnic one time at Tibbet’s Brook Park in Yonkers, New York. It’s a multi-cultural festival to celebrate all of the diverse cultures all around the world. When I went, I see everyone having an amazing time, all joking, laughing, and just kicking back. I noticed something very odd. There was about 50 Arabic people out of the 600 people that attended. I was very sad to see none of my family and relatives there. They didn’t even want to go because of all the racism that would occur, even though there people of all ethnic groups celebrating together. It’s a good chance for different kinds of people to meet up and get to know each other better, but I was very disappointed. I left after about twenty minutes of arrival.
I’ve come to know absurd racism from every angle possible, as I’ve witnessed it as a child to aging young adult. Everywhere from school, to my job, to local law enforcement, to other races, and even other Arabs harassing me about who I really am. Well, who am I? I am an 18 year old, not just an ordinary 18 year old like most people, but one that’s struggling through the hardships of being an Arab and trying to conquer life in every way. One time I was walking down the street in New York, and I met up with my friend. We went to go play basketball in Rucker Park, which is one of the most popular parks in the state of New York. We wanted to go play some basketball, but because were Arabic, we got made fun of by all the Black and Hispanic people. They started saying things like “TERRORIST ALERT!” and “OSAMA’S COUSINS ARE COMING!” After that, we left the park and just went to go hang out at my friends house and played some Xbox 360.
Sometimes I can hear those inner voices telling me to give up. Well, guess what, I will never give up in being myself and taking pride in who I really am, because I know if I think of myself as someone I’m not, or as being at, “the bottom of the food chain”; I will without a doubt, fail. I don’t want to fail and I don’t want to be thought of as someone different because of my race. Actually, I don’t want to be thought of as anything at all, I just want to be treated equally as any other individual would be and not be looked down upon.
Life is about trusting our feelings and taking chances, losing and finding happiness, appreciating the memories and learning from the past. Being an Arab can be hard at times, but I made myself a stronger person by conquering all of the hardships thrown in my way and by looking at myself as the same as everyone else. Sometimes people ask me what’s it like being Arab, I simply say, marvelous!