“Ma’am, you’re going to have to step aside,” said the officer firmly to me as I stepped though the metal detectors. I looked up to a man in uniform with very serious and expressionless face, motioning for me to step away from my group. I looked back at my peers who seemed slightly confused but for me,the scenario was not new. Without hesitation, I quietly grabbed my things and obediently followed directions.
Although extensive security checks have become embedded into my daily life, this situation was a bit different. Along with 5 other Rutgers students, I was able to participate in a 3 day trip to Washington D.C titled Politics and Possibilities. Led by a Rutgers adviser, the trip was filled with meeting national officials, visiting historical landmarks and establishing connections around the country’s capital.
And because it was the country’s capital and we were visiting places of extreme importance such as the Supreme court and the Pentagon, high security was expected, needed and much appreciated.
However, that did not stop the flash backs.
After the attacks of 9/11, racism against Arabs and Muslims, or anyone who looked Arab or Muslim skyrocketed. Due to the horrific act of 11 terrible, cruel and viscous individuals, the cost of over 2 thousand lives were lost and the representation of 1.3 billion people was forever scarred.
“Ma’am you’re going to have to step to a side.” That single phrase echoed in my head as memories of airport security flashed before my eyes. My family and friends being patted down, extensively questioned and repeatedly searched.
The flashbacks continued as images of students attempting to pull off my Islamic headscarf, glass being thrown at my uncle and dirty remarks fired at my mother were all being repeated over and over. It was all a bad movie being played in my head.
But since then, I’ve grown stronger. My beliefs have stuck with me and my personal identity emerged. I made it my mission to educate, for I realized ignorance was a common path to misunderstanding. I hope to break stereotypes and generate change, and what a better place to begin than the foundation of this country and being in the heart of it all. Washington D.C.
I allowed for the officer to continue to do his job, although I knew throughout the visit I was being watched over a little extra, my questions brought a bit more attention and my presence generated slight tension. However that did not stop me from being there and my desire to continuously learn about everything around me.
Spending time in Washington D.C inspired me to chase after my dreams to become an influential individual. In fact it inspired me to become an influential,Muslim-American, hijab-wearing, individual. One with character, charisma and accurate representation.
I hope to continue educating and inspiring change, starting small at a classroom level, my community and one day I’ll be back in DC, doing it bigger and better than ever. I understand it will take a lot of time, effort and commitment but I also I know this is what I want to do and this is where I need to be. So until then, I’ll just be experiencing the world, one moment at a time.