I got to the x-ray machine and placed my bags on the belt. The security guard checked everything carefully, including my shoes. When I got to my gate, I saw a girl sitting by herself. We started talking and realized we were the same ethnicity, even though she had light brown hair and was light-skinned, and I have dark brown hair and dark-skin. While we waited, we talked in Urdu, our parents' native language. When they announced our flight, I stood with my new friend and watched others board.
"Have a nice flight," the attendant said with a smile as she handed Asma her boarding pass. When it was my turn, she looked at my ticket and asked me to step aside.
"Why do I have to step aside?" I asked. She told me I needed to be checked because of my name. Shocked, I stepped aside. Watching the other passengers, I realized that only people who appeared to be Southeast-Asian or Middle Eastern were not allowed to board.
For the first time in my life, I felt as if I wasn't an American even though I was born here and have lived here all my life. Tears of anger formed. If they were going to check me again, it would have only been fair to check everyone.
Because of my appearance and name, I was discriminated against. I understand that it's better to be safe than sorry, but it's not right to single out people. On the nine-hour flight to Turkey I did not feel like an American, but a criminal. Only when I saw my dad at the gate could I begin to put that incident behind me.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.