I was only seven years when I realized the racial differences in Kuwait in 1995. I had not even started elementary school then. It was then that my friend left Kuwait for Palestine. I had no inkling what was transpiring at the time since I was still young. However, I still remember that my sister missed school a few days. My mother did not even allow me to go outside to play with other children. During those days, Palestinians were being sent back to their land. My parents did not discuss it but I remember it was sad when my friend left.
I remember occurrences of racism as well. My parents and I had gone on a trip to some place. I don’t remember exactly where. When my family went to the mosque to pray there, we found a white man who was praying with us. When he sat at someone’s chair ahead of us, that person moved a bit. Then, somehow, he became comfortable. I still remember that my parents talked about it with bitterness after we had prayed and left. I realized that it mattered not to be an Arab or a Kuwaiti.
I have been in the US over the past 2 years. When I came to the US was tense for me. Being an Arab in the USA is not easy. I felt like everyone was discriminative when dealing with me. I thought that even the checking at the airport was more for me than for other travellers. I only got the second taxi to take me to the hotel day. Again I felt like it was discriminative rather than, as the taxi man told me, the excuse that he was already engaged.
Being an Arab
Arabs are mostly Muslim. The biggest population in Kuwait is Arab and Muslim at the same time. They are different from other people in many ways including dressing, beliefs, and even how they bring up their children.
Among the Arabs, being an Arab is a great thing. It only feels weird once you are surrounded by so many other people who don’t even trust you. Arabs are very close to each other whenever they are in any community. They have a form of communal livelihood and every person feels they should respect each other. Amongst our beliefs, is the belief that every day we should be friendly to those we do not know. Even the greetings that are done by Arabs are those of wishing each other peace. Not just among Arabs, but also to others.
Arabs have form of belief know as atomism. They see the world and events as isolated occurrences. This is a key feature in the psychology of the Arab culture. Unlike western societies where unifying factors are sought, Arabs focus on parts of the whole. They do not accept the western cause and effect concept as they do not see the unifying concept. Arabs however keep a long-term memory over actions and events. However, this is done for the sake of the memory rather than the history attached to it.
Arabs also believe strongly on the importance of justice and equality. They weigh their actions and those of others by comparison to their traditional and religious standards. This way, they are able to determine who falls short of morals.
Arab communities have high regard for the family unit. They live in closely knit groups who are even more closely knit t their families. Arabs focus on family pride rather than personal achievements. These families are usually large and often influence the lives of individuals.
Who am I really?
There are many ways I can tell the story of my life. I was raised in a household of five, my two parents, my brother, my sister and I. We learnt in the same elementary school; almost together. I attended a different high school from others in my family. This is where I learned swimming. I liked soccer too. When I left high school, I joined the national swimming team with which I am still a member.
There is so much to say about my life without just talking about ethnicity. Regardless of all the situations I have come across as an Arab, I still have most of my friends being non-Arab Americans.
The nature importance of ethnicity and race among Arabs
The racial identity is superior with us, the Arabs. We have a feeling of belonging and whenever we tell our stories, there are two aspects we don’t forget to talk about; our race and our religion. We identify very well with being Arab. The fact, however, is that we look different too and our culture makes us stand out in the crowd. The way we dress looks different too. It is good to be honest with others.
Most of our ancestors live in Arabic countries like Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, and Syria. Our families have not travelled far from the Middle East for as long as I know. Both my parents were brought up in Kuwait. I was born there too. Very few of them have even visited the US. My community is mostly associated with cattle keeping. Agriculture is very rare among us. The soil is also not very good for farming and the weather does not support farming. The little farming that takes place in Kuwait is associated, mostly, with foreigners and is irrigated farming.
Ethnicity within the family
My family does not talk much about ethnicity. I however recall a few exchanges with my extended family that showed concern for me whenever I travelled outside the country to non-Arab countries for sports. Some often thought I was too close to other races in my job. I felt they were to concerned about my safety. They did not trust that the world was safe enough for me. This displays how much influence the family system can have on individuals.
However, one thing I know about my family is that we are all generous. I think it is something all Arabs do. My family has a few friends from around the world. Whenever a guest visits our home, it is our culture to ensure that he is served with refreshments. This serves to improve a family’s reputation. A good reputation is vital for every Arab family.
When I joined the national swimming team four years ago, I had difficulty dealing with other non-Arabs. This was however, related to what I had heart about the hatred between us and other communities. Since then, however, I see race and ethnicity as mere differences that should be appreciated. I have even had to live with people we have no racial connection for days. Every association with them eventually brings us closer.
Ethnicity and racism against Arabs is a major issue. It affects many children who experience it early. I think my race will continue to affect my life in different ways. It will, for example, be more difficult for me and other Arabsto get jobs in the US. Living among some communities in the US may also be difficult as I may be a victim of violence.
I have a feeling that the demographic changes currently going on in the US will have a positive impact on racism. The US population is going to be more receptive to foreigners as people continue to associate with each other and make friends. However, there is also likelihood that current demographic changes will increase racism and ethnicity. The current communication may at some point feel threatened by immigrants, thereby, increasing discrimination. The struggle by Americans to have all immigrants into the US to assimilate will be hard for most Arabs. Arabs are mostly conservative in nature and it will be hard for them to adopt new values.
Certain extremes of racism make it more visible than others. Direct discrimination against Arabs and the general Muslim has made it more conspicuous in the community. This includes situations are withheld or when violence is involved.
However, there are situations where my being Arab has been beneficial. I belong to an acting group in which I only play the parts that involve Arabs. This has given me a platform to air my opinions in regard to discrimination as this is a very common topic in acting. It has also helped me in getting more friends and even learn more about America and the world.
In conclusion, while racism has been a major issue in my life, it has also been a platform for me to grow on. The major differences have been due to association of terrorism with Arabs and the extremism of the Muslims. I have, however, experienced situations where I can grow myself and earn a good living. A good illustration is my association in the national swimming team.
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