SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2014       Personal Memory Ethnographies


Muslim Girl

My ethnic background is diverse; I've studied in 2 different and very divergent cultures and languages, with English being my third language. Even though I am a Muslim Afghan young woman, I have grown up in many countries and have been exposed to people of many ethnicities. As a result I have been taught by my elders to accept all. After spending most of my life in Russia, coming to United States gave me a great opportunity to attend a high school of diverse ethnicity. Despite the fact that my school was diverse, my classmates made fun of me and called me a Muslim woman because I was dress more openly compare to my friend which she was wearing a veil. Moreover, some minority students hated my achievements in the class.  I was hurt by the hateful comments of my peers, but I never gave up on my ethnicity.  Not only did my peers dislike me but my teachers shunned me because of my race and background as well. I hated that people judged me without knowing me and didn’t respect my ethnicity as I did theirs.

Moreover, learning English was difficult for me compared to a majority of the students who grew up in households where language education was provided by their parents, and they were not stressed in the same way I was. To keep myself going, as my class work became more challenging, I would think about the remarks that my peers made and it would inspire me to work harder. I wanted to show my fellow scholars of ethnicity that they too could challenge themselves intellectually. I wanted to prove to them that the others were wrong for judging the ethnicity of outsiders.  

However, everywhere I go, and everywhere I look there are always faces of people who look different. I have lived in three different countries, and can say that the American society focuses more strongly on differences and not similarities of other people.

Imagine walking down to school and having people stare at you or call you names, or talk behind your back regarding your ethnicity, culture, or attire. Imagine not getting help to find classrooms because nobody will tell you. Why wouldn’t they help me to find a classroom? Is the answer because I am Muslim, or because my skin is a different color, or because I am a different kind of religion? All these questions were in my mind.  But the actual answer was because of 9/11.

It was 2005 when I attended Cortez high school, and it was not long before that the US faced a terrible and tragic attack, caused by Al-Qaeda. American hatred became prominent toward him. Muslims got punished. Even though, I started high school in 2005 people showed their hatred toward me by calling me names and saying demeaning things like “Hi Muslim girl”. Despite the fact that my school was diverse, my classmates made fun of me because of who I was. I was also hurt by the hateful comments of my peers. I even questioned myself. Why would my classmates and other diverse students hate me? I didn’t kill anyone. But the answer was that they still felt the pain that was caused by a Muslim leader, and because of that they hated me as an individual, even though I am not from the same country that caused 9/11.

Therefore, I lived in a middle class three story building on Dunlap Ave, AZ, which was not far from my school. My school Cortez High was two lights down from my house and I walked every morning to school The experience of this high school is one of the most memorable faces of my life. When I look back at those days of smile automatically comes on my face. I don't really know whether that smile is an expression of good or bad. But due to my school experience, I now like the way I see myself, and that has always re-enforced me to face the challenges of my everyday life. In my school, my fellow students drove me to becoming racist and hateful towards other ethnicities. These were the people that became my biggest challenges during my high school days. It was these challenges that made me look towards myself, and my family, rather than turn to my classmates and friends for answers. 

Moreover, my classmates used to make fun of me during PE class because I was wearing my longsleeved shirts and pants in the hot weather. Sometimes I was tempted to wear what they were wearing; very short shorts and a tank top, but then I realized this was not who I was. I never subjected myself to their culture. My classmate John would talk about me to others, saying that Pari is a Muslim girl and look how she is dressed less openly as compared to her other Muslim friends. That is how I was able to overcome these challenges without losing face, my positive attitude, my smile, my determination to study and do well. I experienced that happiness exists in the state of mind I'm in, and not in material goods. Two things I learned during my school days; first if I become a teacher, I will never differentiate between the students, but rather I will encourage other ethnicities to be more involved in each classroom. Secondly I would encouraging students to have a vision by looking at every race and color as human beings. If one has a vision there would be little or no discrimination, and therefore, he/she would not differentiate between cultures or ethnicities, which in the long run, helps any and all races.

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