I grew up trying to hide. Hide my culture, hide my skin color, hide my consuming desire to fit in. If I just acted like everyone else, talked like everyone else, dressed like everyone else, then maybe I would be like them. It took until high school for me to realize that this journey of assimilation and fitting in only succeeded in erasing my roots, alienating my history and bringing me nothing.
I came to the University of Michigan expecting a stark contrast from my conservative Southern hometown in Florida’s panhandle, but more importantly hoping for an environment far from the toxicity it fostered and the subconscious self-hatred. Instead of confederate flags and debutantes, I was expecting openness and people who looked like me. While I joined cultural organizations and found an amazing network of other Arabs and Muslims, I was still shocked by the overall whiteness of the campus and the similarities between the South and the Midwest. I was disappointed and disillusioned to find that so many places on campus did not feel like safe spaces to me.
In the winter semester of my freshman year, I attended my first Michigan Daily mass meeting with the goal of signing up for Copy and leaving, but then I found the Michigan in Color table. The idea of a newspaper section dedicated solely to other people of color and their narratives and experiences seemed too good to be true.
In Michigan in Color, I found an outlet where I could learn from my peers about our parallel experiences as PoC on campus, and it gave me a platform to speak to my experiences as a Muslim, Arab-American woman in a safe, nurturing space. For the first time, I wasn’t trying to hide my identity — I was empowered to embrace it. With no fear of being labeled a “terrorist” or “radical,” MiC provides me with comfort and pride in all parts of my identity that America tried to assimilate out of me. It encourages us all to acknowledge past traumas, challenge the norms and build a stronger, more understanding community.