A Palestinian-American Muslim’s perspective of living in Kentucky


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Mohammad Ahmad

With MLK Day having passed and all these racial, social tensions going around following the Covington Catholic incident in Washington, D.C., I thought it might be interesting to share my perspective as a Palestinian-American Muslim living in Kentucky.

From the time I was 5 years old, I remember being insulted and attacked just for being an Arab Muslim. Not for any other reason. For my first seven years of schooling, I was in a Muslim private school, so I was used to being around people much like myself. However, outside of school, I remember people insulting me and making me feel worthless for who I was. I remember my mom being taunted at different stores and restaurants when I was a kid just for wearing a hijab and long dress. And I would be taunted just for being her son.

It got worse over time, especially when my family moved to a new house when I was 10. The neighborhood we live in is predominately white and white-collar, so many of our neighbors received us scornfully. Kids my age who lived in the neighborhood teased me at the time because I was “different.” It was a trend that continued for years and included people leaving dog feces and pork bacon (yes, pork bacon) on our doorstep.

It got even worse when I went to a public middle school for 8th grade. Kids looked at me like I was some alien or martian. Lots of people purposefully avoided me and didn’t want to be around me. When Osama Bin Laden died, I received an extreme amount of hate the day after and most teachers didn’t even do anything about it.

Once I got to high school, the hate died down a little bit. But, I used to always receive rude impressions from students, and I could tell it was because I was still “different”: I didn’t drink, have a girlfriend, or celebrate Christian holidays. The theme of isolation, if you’ve picked it up by now, continued to carry along.

In the midst of this stretch of my life, I was always taught in school that racism and hate were erased when Dr. King, Ralph Albernathy, Rosa Parks, and all other activists came to the scene. Every Black History Month, I felt this jubilee and elation, thinking that America really was this diverse, loving melting pot, and that we moved past Jim Crow and prejudice. I tried to back-stock the racist and hateful incidents in my mind as “exceptional, rare, and unusual.” So, I continued to be patient, thinking that America would grow in the right direction and hate would slowly die down.

Now fast forward, when I got to college and Trump was elected, it’s like everything I experienced came to a head. I came to this sudden epiphany: I realized that, while yes, while the actions of Dr. King and co. helped eradicate much of the racist evil America experienced, things still really hadn’t changed much.

Basically, I came to understand what white privilege was, why it exists, and how Trump’s election reinstated this belief that white supremacy is acceptable and division is necessary. On and off campus, I saw much more hate and ignorance than I’d seen most of my life. After working at two different restaurants and now a grocery store, the reception I would get from a lot, but, not all, of the customers was an uneasy and welcome feeling.

The point of this story/semi-rant is that racial relations have improved over time, but institutionally some things haven’t changed and won’t change. Understanding things like the racist War on Drugs, police brutality attacks against minorities, an unnecessary Muslim travel ban, an extreme fervor of anger and hate towards Mexicans and Latinos as “aliens”, and a President who seeks to reinforce white supremacy have taught me that being a non-White person in America always has been and always will be a challenge.

Now, I’m not saying this to blame any White Americans for anything that has happened. I am only writing this from the perspective of a minority so that others can understand the struggles of being a minority in America. The evils and flaws I’m pointing out should only serve to get people to understand that we still have a lot of work to do.

I’m very proud and blessed to be an American citizen. We Americans are very fortunate to live in a democracy and republic that allows people to voice their opinions and practice their beliefs. But lets make sure that we use this privilege to call out those who worsen social and racial issues in out nation and stop them.

No one should have to live in fear and worry just because of the color of their skin or beliefs. I love being able to have friendships and conversations with people of all backgrounds. My dream is that everyone can come together and love each other the way god intended.