I’ve lived in the US as a child, pre 9/11 in Kansas. And in such a “redneck” part of the country, my family and I were subjected to some racial incidents, the most memorable of which is a man spitting on my father’s BMW after finding out the owner was Arab. Another that really sticks out is one time I was doing my business in a bathroom stall and I called something out in Arabic to my sister. So the lady in the stall next to me stood on the toilet, grabbed me by the hair and started screaming insults at me. I was only about 10 at the time. Her boyfriend or whatever had to rush in and pry her away. It turns out she had one too many beers and blamed me for her brother’s death in Lebanon. I also remember my art teacher at school who had to have other teachers come in and convince her to treat me like a human being in conversations that were within my earshot. I guess they thought I was too young to understand. Or my mother at a convenience store being harassed by two farmer looking guys for speaking in Arabic. All of this before 9/11, so logically it must be worse now.
It wasn’t all bad or otherwise we would have left before my father finished his studies. The US is fantastic both for study and tourism. The way I see it, it’s a win-win situation. We get the benefits of the great higher education system and have fun at tourist sights and go back home at the end of the day. We pay our way throughout. And I have never known a Saudi to immigrate to a western country. And yet you still get these little incidents. It’s as if every Saudi is a member of the higher royal family or maybe some Americans think that we are secretly a democracy and all Saudis have a voice in their country’s policies.
Anyway my little dilemma is that I am currently in the US and I have my kids in tow too. Naturally we sometimes get the “where are you from” question from people like store clerks or park bench neighbors. So far, I’ve answered truthfully. But I am considering teaching my kids to say something like Turkey, although I hate the thought of oking lying. Maybe, I’ll just stick to the truth.