When the topic of racism arises in a conversation, the voices while go down suddenly, and the hushes and whispers starts either denying its existence or trying to change the uncomfortable subject. However, despite all this denial can’t hide the existence of big elephant in the room. My experience is not a unique one and I think thousands of people encounter every day in their lives; whether they are Muslims, African, Asian, old people or other type of minorities and races around the world.
Sometimes I would look myself on the mirror and check my forehead to see if the word “Terrorist” is written there and I can’t see it. When someone on the bus turn around as ask “Are you going to blow up this bus?” to my friends and I; you would take a pause and check if the word is written somewhere over your body.
It seems my hijab ignites some people who are passing by to stop, walk back to where I stand and start stating their opinions. Three weeks back, a man stopped in his track the moment he saw me wearing hijab while standing with my friends. He came and asked if we are Muslims and started giving a lecture about why Islam is not a forgiving religion, and how everyone goes to hell when committing a sin while Christianity and Judaism are nothing like that. the questions I had in mind was “If I wasn’t wearing my Hijab would he have stopped and gave this lecture? What give him the right to start preaching? Is it something related to superiority? Is it a principle or a value?” I honestly don’t know.
Yesterday, I was heading home through the metro; sitting in the almost empty cabinet looking out of the window, when two guys boarded. We were six people, an old man, a man in his mid-thirties, a girl, the two guys and me. The two guys were very loud in their talk and behaviors. As the metro moved from the station to another one and stopped due to reconstruction issues. The two guys started addressing me, I was wondering if I should reply or not. I turned politely and answer their loud “Excuse me, Excuse me”. They started asking inappropriate questions, as I turned my head back to stare out of the window, they addressed me again asking if I have money, boyfriend, etc ; followed with curses. I was scared as they were becoming louder and louder but what scared me more is the fact no one in the cabinet was willing to do anything.
The mid-thirties man who was sitting opposite of me, raised his eyes, stared for few seconds then continued watching his phone as if what is happening is not actually happening. I didn’t know what to do or how to behave, or why they picked me up, or if I should leave or not, and why no one is doing anything to those offensive guys; my brain stopped functioning. One of the two guys decided to finish the harassment and leave the metro, but before that he made a very loud “BOOM” sound behind me. I must admit the bravado I pulled would never tell how scared I was.
I left the cabinet and moved to another one, a crowded one with so many questions in my head. Racism exits in both subtle and sugarcoated way and in blunt way; it could be across race and between the same race with different classes. Why people would speak their minds against such racist behaviors on social media while in reality they would never act or do anything to stop this racism? Why physical appearance, like a hijab, attracts people to show their racisms? Is racism because of a lack in education, raising children properly, awareness or it’s a way for the oppressed as well to show its superiority towards people who are more oppressed? And finally, who gave those racist people the right to state their racism opinion? Is the society helping the spread by staying silent?
This is a personal experience, yet it happens to many individuals and humans across the world. What happened with me is sad and it might happen again during the coming 11 months but I hope people wouldn’t miss the elephant in the room by focusing only on my personal experience. They should start discussing the why, the reasons, the reactions and how general racism should be addressed effectively.