I always created a new box to check

New York City, NY

A teen during 9/11… The only now officially identified as “Arab,” teen in my entire school. Before I was looked at as if I was just like all the other kids– just hold the ham, bacon, and pork products at school and birthday parties. But I had friends with some odd allergies, so no eyebrows were ever raised in my circle of friends. Captain of my soccer team, that is what I was identified with…

High fives in the hallway after a winning game; selfies with the team on bus rides home. No I was the Arab, and on the bus I sat alone. I was told to go back where I came from… Did they forget we went to preschool together? I was born here. I’m a New Yorker. And if they mean go back where my blood line comes from, I could not– since my parents were Palestinian refugees. My mother coming as a young child, and had also grew up in New York. To many fellow Arabs we would be considered “Americanized.”

But it’s true… You identify most with the group you have been attacked for being a part if. Therefore I was a Palestinian American rather than an American Palestinian.

Young, hurt, and upset or all that I have dealt with by my peers, my community who decided to make me an outsider I created my own box to check.
Came high school I never found Middle Eastern/Arab on any of my state exams, PSATs, SATs etc. how could I label myself as Caucasian if I wasn’t welcomed among them. And Asian was to broad, and I know I they would have thought that I meant East Asian, or by my name South East Asian. But I wasn’t anyt of those either… The choices were not specific enough me. I surly wasn’t going to put other. What does that even mean? How could they anyone as an other? And I was offended that with the Middle East being so large, and with the large population of Arabs living in the states and immigrating to the states, that we were not represented on any of my exams. Local, state, and national.
So with my number two pencil, I wrote “middle Eastern/Arab” and drew a box next to it, and satisfyingly wrote in a check mark in the box.
I wasn’t welcomed because I was Arab… I was left out because I was Arab… So I took the fact and included myself as an Arab wherever I could. I wasn’t going to accept making myself into something I was not, and being left out and discrimated against because if who I was.


Tweets by Michele Norris