“You shouldn’t tell anyone where I’m from.” Those words of my mother’s will always stick with me. It was just after 9/11, and my mom was worried about the political climate. She was worried about the treatment we might receive if people knew our mother was from the Middle East.
The truth is, this wasn’t the first time or the last time I felt different, but it was the first time I had been completely devastated by it. I felt angry that my mom would have to feel nervous about being Iranian in a country that boasts diversity and equality. She had to be nervous about it because of the actions of men who weren’t even Iranian. They just happened to be Middle Eastern and chose to commit heinous crimes.
I am proud to be half Iranian. I am proud to be my mother’s daughter. She is one of the most selfless, generous, kind-hearted people I know. What I am not proud of is the insanely quick way that people in this country will turn on each other because of the actions of a small group of people. It’s even more prevalent now with social media. Everyone can voice their opinions. The problem that I’ve seen is that nobody wants to actually hear someone’s opinion who doesn’t agree with them. Imagine what things would have been like back in 2001. I was never actually attacked for my heritage, although I have gotten the odd question about religious beliefs or why I don’t have dark features. But what if we had social media back then? Would I have been attacked for being proud to have middle eastern family members, to have Iranian blood flowing through my veins? Would anyone have wanted to hear that I was horrified by the attacks just like everyone else?
I really don’t think so.