My little dilemma

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.


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10 responses to “My little dilemma

  1. Monica

    Hi, just found your blog, read the 7/31 piece… I think it sucks that some Americans (and I know at least a few like this personally) are so ignorant like that. I’ve gotten into huge arguements with people over Muslims, I guess b/c I lived in Indonesia as a kid and see Islam differently than people who only relate it to 9/11 (i.e. ignorance). I wouldn’t blame you for lying about where you’re from, because I’ve done it myself. When overseas, I say I am Canadian (though I am an American), and even have a Maple Leaf patch on my backpack. Apparently a lot of Americans do this. I feel your pain but sometimes a little lie saves heartache. Good luck, and I hope your kids don’t get hassled like you did in KS.

  2. It is a dilemma
    Yet we are obligated to change the idea about Saudi people
    Not an easy task but each one of us should do his part
    It isn’t healthy to teach your kids to hide their identity; it may affect them badly in the future
    My advice is to teach your children what is going on and what do people mistakenly think about us most important what to say when they asked about their country, let them present the good and the true Saudi people
    Good luck

  3. In the years I’ve lived in the US, I’ve never been subjected to racism (al7amd lillah). I lived both in the South and the North (and the Midwest region, I might add 😉 ). I’ve seen it happen all around me, though. I’ve seen it happen to my sister, my mother, and my older brothers. I guess racism happens when the racist thinks the victim is vulnerable, or they wouldn’t utter or do such things. If those victims presented a more confident stance, they would prevent racism all together. Think about it, racists are those who are ignorant to what life really is!, and we are smarter and fully capable to handle any form of racism. So, Saudiwoman tell your kids to stick to the truth, and teach them how to confront racism. They will learn a great lesson about life 🙂

    I very much liked your post, and it broke my heart to read that you got treated in such a way! 😦
    الله لا يعيده عليك

    best of luck 🙂

  4. I can relate to wanting to lie. Pre-9/11 I lived in the UAE and Egypt. I went with “Canada” for a very long time. Tell the truth, and I would be given a long list of what’s wrong with American foreign policy. “Israel-mish kwayess. American-mish kwayess” sorta thing. Alternatively, I was just treated with contempt. I wouldn’t care, but a lot of the comments came from taxi drivers who knew where you lived.

    I’m back in the UAE after a few years in the UAE w/ my Egyptian husband. Admittedly, he has had zero issues with anyone in the US and openly shared the fact that he’s Egyptian, but we did live in Seattle. Now, on this return to the UAE, I find that I am more open. At least I gauge the person’s response before instinctively responding with “Canadian”.

    You don’t want your kids to be ashamed of your nation, but you also don’t want to expose them to the nastiness of the most ignorant in this world. The person who left a comment above about changing the face of Saudi Arabia is right. It only takes one pleasant experience with a Muslim and/or a Saudi for one ignorant person to consider that perhaps not everyone can be so easily labelled. When we leave our nations we become ambassadors (albeit, often unwillingly) of our respective countries. I’ve faced a good bit of contempt in my travels, but I hope I might have helped change the stereotypes for some.

  5. The incidents you relayed about the racism in America you and your family experienced is appalling. People can be so ignorant. But I always say, “You can find jerks in every country, of every color, and of any religion.” And what’s really sad is, you don’t really have to go out of your way to find them – somehow they always seem to find YOU!
    My husband lived in the US for 30 yrs, got his citizenship, and then last year, decided he wanted to move back home to Arabia. When we first arrived, he wanted me to tell people (if I was asked) that I was Canadian too. I did a couple of times, and it just didn’t feel right. So I admit to being “Amreeki” and then all I have to say is “I hate Bush”,” and we become instant friends! People should be judged on their own merits, not on the basis of where they come from or what religion they are or what color their skin is – I have always believed this. It’s only the ignorant ones that lump everybody all together in a particular group to hate. Teach your children to be proud of who they are. It’s other people who have the problem, not you.

  6. saudiwoman

    I totally agree and I never could get myself to ask the kids to lie. No incidents happened, everyone was very friendly.

  7. No matter what, there are bound to be bad apples. I always thought that the way to deal with them *besides educating* is to simply ignore their nonsensical rants and be just who you are. They’ll either grow tired of doing it, acknowledge your virtues or remain forever ignorant.

  8. Kyle

    I’ve enjoyed reading your blog, but I must admit I found this post to be hypocritical. You chide Americans for racism yet you continually evoke condescending tones when referring to Phillipinos, Bengalis, Pakistanis, etc., etc. You also commented on how the Jordanian royal family have supposedly ruined their blood line by intermarrying with Westerners, how you would never fathom marrying outside of your nationality, etc., etc. I hope that you see that racism goes both ways.

    • saudiwoman

      Kyle please give me one example where I’ve used a condescending tone to refer to anyone! And what I meant about the Royal family is that that they pride themselves on being direct descendents of the prophet (PBUH) and pure Arabs and then they marry non Arabs which goes against the whole Ashraf pure tribal blood thing.

  9. Kayci Almarzooq

    You should not encourage your children to use a different country. My late husband was Saudi and whenever anyone ever asked him where he was from he would say Bahrain. The problem with this is, my husband was such a bright, personable, enerjetic person. Everyone who met him absolutly loved him so in saying he was from another country- yes he may have been dodging the discrimination but he was also missing out on the opportunity to educate people first hand on the wonderful people that most Saudi’s really are.

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