Magazine, website & books written by teens since 1989

Muddled Images This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

By
As I step from the plane, the familiar scent of ­cigarette smoke and car exhaust washes over me. The smell signifies summers distinct from those spent in America. Here there is no day camp or summer reading; instead there is both familiarity and exoticism, the promise of a new experience every day. Sometime during the 10-hour flight, the straight-cut lines of southwestern Connecticut transformed into the sights I see before me: a place where skyscrapers and pyramids, camels and taxicabs are seamlessly ­enveloped in the bright-orange sky of the Sahara. I imagine that if someone were to peer inside my mind they would be confronted with an image similar to this one – two distinct worlds blending into one yet somehow retaining a separate and individual character.

My hyphenated existence as an Egyptian-American has been an experience, to say the least. I often find myself struggling to fit within the traditional definitions of race and have found that many people wish to define me through labels like black, white, Hispanic, and Asian; replacing my cultural heritage and identity with simple colors and inaccurate descriptions. Upon discovering my ethnic origins, they ask a barrage of questions on ancient Egyptian culture (which I know nothing about) or the loaded question “What exactly are you?”

The Egyptian race is a mix of African, European, Arab, and Asian influences. Egyptians come in many skin tones, hair textures, eye colors, religions, and political views. I suppose this diversity is why, although I’ve lived in America my entire life, I never fully understood the importance of diversity and its cultural ramifications until I started high school. Unknown to me, I was entering a world of self-segregation – in which there were “black” and “white” ­cafeterias. Individuals were categorized on the basis of whom they associated with. My classmates segregated themselves, disregarding the diversity that surrounded them.

It was in this environment that my “Egyptian-ness” became an asset, enabling me to interact with all of my classmates, not just those who were similar, because in actuality I was similar to no one. Each peer gave me a new vantage point from which to view the world around me. Through these experiences I learned more about myself, and in the process discovered my passion for psychology. In time, I came to see my diversity, and the unrelenting questions that come with it, as a tool with which I could educate.

My mind may be muddled with images of exotic and not-so-exotic places, but it offers me a clear and realistic view of the diversity and opportunities to learn in the world. I can only imagine all the interesting people I will meet in college and their reaction when I tell them, “Yes, I am an Egyptian.”

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




Join the Discussion


This article has 3 comments. Post your own!

moonpetal said...
Jul. 18, 2010 at 4:10 pm:
I like it, I know some one of the same desent. People are so mean, they should get over people being varied and deal with it.Glad you respect ur heritage. Every one should. :D
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
~EmilyC~ This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 13, 2010 at 4:20 pm:
This is great! I hope that you keep writing. :D
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
in the party said...
Oct. 27, 2009 at 12:15 pm:
this is a good piece of writing
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
Site Feedback