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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

I didn’t participate in 9/11, stop looking at me like I did

Anthony+Fomin%2FUnsplash
Anthony Fomin/Unsplash

OLLA MOKHTAR
campus editor
olla.mokhtar@my.tccd.edu

I’m very visibly Muslim, I know, but why are you staring at me? 

Are you blaming me for something that happened before I was born, for something I didn’t do? 

Recently, a friend of mine asked me to define privilege in my own words, and I responded by saying that it’s the ability to do anything — in this context, leave the house on 9/11 — and not think about it. 

Remembering 9/11 was more than just commemorating those who died. For me, it drudged up unwanted memories from watching 9/11 documentaries in high school. 

To be absolutely clear, of course I am devastated about what happened that day, but I can also be uncomfortable with the way my classmates stared at me every time one of the documentaries was put on for us to watch.  

Those two feelings are not mutually exclusive. 

They aren’t opposing thoughts that I can’t have. 

They are simply my truth. One that is an unfortunate and vile reality as someone who wears a hijab, essentially wearing a large banner that is her religion.  

For a quick backstory, I was born in Texas, but from ages 7 through 14, I lived in Sudan, my country of origin. I returned just in time for freshman year expecting culture shock, confusing grading standards and difficulty making friends, all of which I experienced. 

What I didn’t expect was for people to stare at me to the point that I felt they were saying I was “un-American,” that I wasn’t like them. 

And for a country that prides itself on its diversity, that sure was hypocritical. 

By now, most people know that the actions carried out by those terrorists have nothing to do with Islam. But not everybody thinks that way. 

Some think it is directly correlated, that it’s religion’s fault that the tragedy happened and not the fact that there are bad people in every community. 

Of course, this is wrong, but what is a 14-year-old supposed to do when 20 kids start staring at her because of what those people did?  

Retaliate? Absolutely not. Bigoted people would just think I was a terrorist too. 

Act like you can’t see them and continue watching? You guessed right. 

Every year, I hope to God 9/11 doesn’t fall on a weekday so that I can hide during the weekend without the possibility of getting hate-crimed. I’m also upset because terrorists come from different religions and races, but the religion that gets brunt of it is Islam. And the only races that it affects are Black and brown people, never mind that the person may not be Muslim. If you “look the part” in real life, you are the part. 

I decided it was because people didn’t want to look internally and say, “Yeah, every community has its bad apples,” and instead say anyone that was a terrorist and happened to be white just had “mental health issues.” 

I may know these things and another reader may as well, but I’m tired of the talking portion of the acknowledgement plan. 

When am I and other Black and brown people going to be given the ability to live with nuance to our identities? Because prejudice is not inert but taught.  

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