As an Arab, especially a female, you experience things differently. It’s kind of rare if you feel safe in the community and sometimes you don’t feel like you belong or fit in anywhere because of looking different than others.
For me, I’m grateful to my friend group for accepting, not only who I am, but me. I want people to see past my scarf than see it right away. I’m a human, too. There are a lot of words you can hurt a person with. It takes a toll on self-esteem. If you hang out with the same people in the same places, you will of course feel safe. However, you still have to be aware of your surroundings.
I feel safe in my community, but it always seems like there is that one person that will ask me ignorant questions or do something stupid. Some people just want to learn, but there is always at least one person that makes me want to recoil from others. So, even though I feel safe in my school community, I always have to be aware.
One of the things that has happened to me and many of the other Arab girls I know is that people like to pull off my scarf. When it happened I was angry, I almost broke down. There were a few tears, but I caught myself. I had to be strong in front of these kids. I was.
I don’t have a solution at the moment. I’m strong and I’ll keep showing up. However, I do want you all to know what I experience here, in a school that I love. I also imagine that there are thousands of other stories just like mine all across this country and I think it’s time the folks in charge started listening.
This post was written by Shfah Saleh and originally ran on Energy Convertors, a platform giving space to people from oppressed communities to lift their voices through digital media and public advocacy to improve public schools.