Today I cried in public for the first time in a long time. I cried in reaction to a performance by the CRLT Players from the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching. I was not supposed to be there since they only perform for graduate students, faculty and staff. However, my participation in the English Department’s Diversity Committee got me the invite so there I was. I sat next to Theresa Braunschneider, not knowing she was the associate director of CRLT and the coordinator of Diversity Initiatives Dramaturg for the CRLT Players. I was grateful to be able to discuss the performance and work through my emotions with Theresa of all people. Even so, I could not hold back my tears.
I cried as I watched Mariam, a fictional character from “A Thousand Cuts,” represent my Muslim identity and its depth on stage. I watched as other fictional characters who were supposed to be her friends and peers make assumptions of her, portray their stereotypes onto her, dismiss her and call her out for not being a “real Muslim” because she did not wear a hijab or fit their stereotypes of what it means to be Muslim or what Islam looks like. I watched as other fictional characters idly sat back and witnessed Mariam be labeled, attacked and excluded by the community. They told her not to worry about the election and that nothing could really happen because of checks and balances.
Yet here we are.
I, too, was repeatedly told how to feel, be and handle my identity. After watching how Mariam was treated, I couldn’t help but to think of you, my friend. You represent every person who has ever claimed to not be racist because of their one ethnic friend. You represent every person who will hold up a poster that claims their solidarity to take a picture for the news or post it on social media but truly does not care about minority issues. Most importantly, you represent the people who claim to respect my identities and yet support the policies that attack my identities.
How dare you.
How dare you claim to respect how I feel and say you stand in solidarity with me yet support my attacker and feel nothing for how my identity is being attacked.
However, this is not about you or your fake support. This is about how we claim “all men were created equal” and “thou shalt love thy neighbor,” yet that truly only applies to the dominant, white, Christian men and, sometimes, women. I have had enough of the fake pretenses. The very government that is supposed to protect me sees me as a threat. What am I to do? I’ll tell you what I am not going to do.
I will not allow you to pretend to be my ally.
I will not allow you to fill me with dismay or make me feel like I am in the wrong for being upset.
I will not idly sit back while you disrespect me.
I will call you out and remove you from my life. I will forever stand up for what I believe in.
And you “those who stand for nothing fall for anything.”
So don’t you dare.
Don’t you dare tell me I’m overacting.
Don’t you dare tell me to respect policies that reinforce the stigma I have faced my entire life.
And don’t you dare tell me it’s going to be OK because it’s already not OK.
It has never been OK.
Still I feel sorry for you. I am sorry you can’t see past your naïve, prejudice-based fears and break through the stereotypes society has fed you. And I am mad. I am mad because I truly cared about you. But this is not about you. This is about how I feel and you have no right to devalue my feelings.
So this is goodbye.
And I am not sorry.