I've been attacked multiple times recently over my ethnicity. It's not the first time and I am sure it wont be the last . My early years were full of people treating me differently because of my roots. I spent many lunches and recesses alone because no one wanted to eat or play with the foreign girl whose food smelled funny or whose family was, in their own words, weird. So much judgement and hate towards a little kid that just wanted to fit in. I let every word get to me and grew to hate what I was: different. I spent my entire life trying to erase my roots and change the way people look at me. And I thought I had.
But now that old foe of mine has returned once again to unravel everything I have worked so hard to change. I am once again the other, the outcast, the foreigner. They shout these words at me as if they are flaws. They fear me as if my skin color makes me dangerous. But most hurtfully, they degrade me for my belief that underneath it all, we are all the same. These interactions have taken me back to being that insecure little girl who is ashamed of who she is. Because no matter how tough you may be, it’s painful to be disliked and judged for something you can't control. Something you can’t change or wish away. I look at my daughter and I blame myself for giving her the same hair, the same eyes, the same skin that brings that hate out of some people and I feel like I have set her up to follow the same lonely and difficult path that I have wandered for so much of my life. What kind of parent would do that to their child?
But then I heard a voice within me barely whisper, "no." I heard it over and over again and each time it would gain strength until finally the voice grew so strong that I felt it in every fabric of my being. It shouted and resonated deep within my soul, "no, No, NO!" Not again. I will not spend the rest of my life apologizing for what I am. I will no longer hide who I am so that they will accept me. I will never be ashamed of who I am and what I represent ever again. No one has the right to make you hate who you are. I will be a force of change. I will be the voice for those who, like me, are treated unfairly based on their looks or where they are from. It doesn't matter. I was born here but my American birth right was still not enough to protect me from harsh judgments and cruel words. Enough is enough. I will always fight for what I believe is right: equality.
To my Latina sisters who have to console their heartbroken children every night because, "No one wants to be friends with a Mexican..."
To my Muslim brothers who are persecuted for being "Terrorists..."
To my gay and lesbian friends who are deprived the same rights as anyone else because they are seen as "Unnatural..."
To all the other people of the world who are shunned, feared, attacked, misunderstood and hated for being nothing other than different....
I hear you. I feel you. I stand with you. And I will never stop fighting with you.
That is who I am and I am damn proud of it.
~ Star Khan, Outreach Services Coordinator at Driftwood Public Library in Lincoln City
See Star's Featured REFORMISTA post to learn more about her work
Below is a poem Star read that spoke to her and she thought was fitting to include and share...
"23 pairs of chromosomes"
"37.1 trillion cells
23 pairs of chromosomes
46 chromosomes total
The pigment of my skin, a reminder of the humid city my family came from.
A story of how I became the first born in a country where my grandfather was alone, working, to support a family on the other side of the border.
How my mother came to the United States when she was sixteen, leaving all she knew, both her heart and accent heavy.
A reminder that no matter how Texan my accent may be when I speak English,
No matter how much I’ve grown used to straightening my hair and finding jeans that fit both my height and the curve of my body,
I can’t hide my indigenous roots.
I can’t suppress the fact that my hair becomes a tangle of curls and waves when it is wet or it’s humid outside.
I can’t conceal the fact that I don’t have long, beautiful legs and a perfectly even body.
I can’t try and reserve the culture and traditions that shaped my youth, my memories.
The country and history that provided the details, tones, and shades that made me up.
37.1 trillion cells
23 pairs of chromosomes
46 chromosomes total