Today was the first day that I have been openly discriminated against for my background.
I am an Iraqi-American with a Muslim father and a Christian mother.
My father is an Iraqi refugee who immigrated to the United States alone, at the age of 15. He built his life here out of nothing.
He is now an Interventional Radiologist who saves lives every single day.
He saves the lives of people of every ethnicity and background and is PROUD to be a citizen of the United States.
This however, does not mean that he is somehow less proud to be Iraqi, and that is an important distinction.
Today in my college classroom discussion, a girl explained that she was so proud of her Arab friend for not admitting she was from the Middle East because
“nobody would want to be associated with those people.”
I was shocked, and although I do not look particularly “Arab,” I am extremely proud of my Iraqi background and thrive on that part of my identity. I explained to her that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being from the Middle East, being Muslim, and/or being Arab.
I said as calmly as I could, that there is nothing wrong with anyone because of their background. I explained that I am so proud to be Arab and to have a Muslim father and to be Muslim myself.
What shocked me the most was not her ignorance, but that now she feels that it is okay to act this way. She said that
“Now that we have a President who says what he thinks, people do not have to hide their feelings, and that it is okay to express that they are against Arabs and people from the Middle East.”
A leader that inspires hatred, bigotry, and discrimination is not one to be proud of. I left class today in tears for the people who have had to work so hard to get to be apart of this wonderful country, only to be discriminated against.
My father is a perfect example of someone to be proud of.
I beg of everyone to please fight for those who are now being discriminated against because of something that defines them.
I am proud to be an Arab-American woman and I urge everyone to fight for every person they come in contact with. It may not always be easy to do so, but now more than ever in my own life, it is extremely necessary.
I would like to thank everyone for the overwhelming care, love, and support that you have all shown my family and I since I first shared this post.
I wish that I could respond to each and every comment because they all mean so much to me.
To answer some of the comments, my professor did step in, but only after she had already spoken. I believe that everyone in the class was just taken off guard.
After medical school, I am planning on one day going into politics so that I have the opportunity to stand up and protect the rights of every person, because I have to believe in humanity.
Please do not stop fighting for those who need it.
Here are a couple of photos of my incredible father who makes a difference in people’s lives every single day.
Story written by Iya Agha, obtained by Sweet Lemon Pies with permission.