Have you ever been neglected because you were different? Have you ever been discriminated against because of your race, gender or what you believe in? I know I have. The sun hung high above in the sky, streaming down on my face as I trudged through the snow. Drifting across the sky, the clouds floated beside the sun. I scrutinized my surroundings; a beautiful winter afternoon where the sun had finally decided to shine. As I sauntered, I passed a couple sitting on a bench. I turned to see them giving me heated glares. Then they began to whisper. I gathered the courage to sit down on an empty bench in front of the couple, waiting for my mother to arrive. I watched squirrels squirm out of their dens inside trees and nibble on the acorns they had saved. A man talking on his phone while walking his dog, who looked as if he wanted to escape the boundary that's his leash created. While I sat there, I could hear snippets of the women's conversation behind me.
“What is she wearing on her head?…,” the woman squeaked in a high pitched voice, wearing flamboyant bright red, woven sweater and a cotton hat. Her husband grunted, and his response was muffled.
I fidgeted with my chiffon scarf waiting for my mom to arrive, trying to ignore the couple's judgements. As more people passed by, I got more glares, and even more suspicious looks; their eyes were slings, flinging judgment at me, pelting me in unsaid hatred. I’d just smile and turn away. When my mom pulled in, I plunged into the backseat and let out a sigh of relief.
“Good afternoon sweetheart. How are you?” my mom exclaimed in her cheerful voice.
“Great,” I lied, peering outside the window avoiding any further discussion.
When we arrived, I got out of the car as my mom unlocked the door. I took off my boots that were drenched in snow, throwing them on the shoe rack in a rush. I sprinted upstairs and slammed the door of my room. I flung myself on my bed and shoving my face into my pillow. Tears poured down my cheeks. Why were people so cruel? What had I done to them? I fell asleep that night in a puddle of my sorrows.
The next day, my screeching alarm clock abruptly woke me. While stumbling down the stairs, I managed to get ready for school. When I arrived at school, I sat down, preparing my materials for class when one of my classmates came tumbling in. He was quite tall and had his hair spiked up in all directions and pulled back, however, he wasn't alone. Following him close behind, was a group of boys wearing black shirts and looking as if they wanted to cause trouble. I hid behind my desk, hoping and praying that they wouldn't notice me. Luck was definitely not on my side that day. The leader of this group, who if I recall correctly was named Jared, stomped over to my desk and plopped his rough hand down on my desk so hard I felt the desk shake. He looked at me and said,
“What on earth are you wearing? Is that a towel on your head!” he exclaimed turning around and laughing with his gang pointing at my headscarf.
I stared up at him. I tried to speak but when I opened my mouth nothing came out. I didn't move. I didn't defend myself. I was speechless. I couldn't move. I felt a rush of tears rise up. More people began gathering around, I quickly got up and pushed through the crowd, tears escaping and streaming down my cheeks. I stormed into the bathroom and allowed the tears to pour out. I pressed my palms on the edge of the sink. My whole body fraught with sorrow and pain. My tears slid down my cheeks falling into the sinks drain. I had made a mistake that day by not defending myself. I glanced down at my beautiful, pink ombre scarf that I remember picking out when I was younger; I could no longer see its beauty. All I saw was a scarf drenched in tears, full of my pain and sorrow.
When I was younger I would go to the scarf store and pick out the most beautiful handmade scarves I could find. I would pull out a scarf and run my fingers through the material. I would twirl the scarf around me and stand in front of a mirror, posing and making funny faces. I was so excited to wear a hijab, to be just like my mom. I remember standing in front of the mirror and telling myself “I can be who I want to be and no one can stop me from achieving my dreams”.
When I put my hijab on, I got so much hate, discrimination, and disgusted looks. A hijab shouldn't represent hatred. It should represent love, beauty, courage, and strength, yet some people saw it as a threat, something they should fear. I learned that people don't have to like you, they just have to respect you, “I'm not concerned with you liking or disliking me... All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.” Those who chose to make fun of me were quite fatuous. Jared tried to relegate me; he tried to put me down because of what I wore. Over years of experience and confidence in myself, I learned that people fear things they know so little about.
“The ultimate ignorance is the rejection of something you know nothing about, yet you refuse to investigate….”