I sit there, waiting. An all-too familiar feeling is coursing through my blood, and my head is in my homework but my heart is here, on my computer. I close some tabs here and there, but reopen them every once in a while, hoping for the name. I’m biting my nails, making jokes with my roommates in the meantime, getting up for a glass of water, and then I see it.
I’m hoping, praying for the wrong thing, misguided in my desires, but it’s all for naught. The name is Muslim-sounding. And my heart, heavy and lonely and full of anger and grief and all the weight of my skin color and first name and religion, sinks.
How sad is it that, mere minutes after the shooting in San Bernardino was reported and I texted my friend in Riverside, my next thought was of fear? All the way in Michigan, I was scared. Of the shooter being Muslim. Of people sitting there chomping at the bit for a suspect name, perversely waiting for it to be foreign, for it to be Arab, for the skin to be brown and the beard to be long. Of the tide of Muslim-hate growing, as it has for a while now. And I, just as guilty of completely forgetting the victims and their families, turned masochist. I went online.
The Internet is the world’s most lawless playground. For all that it provides, it coaxes out the worst in people, and it’s hard to turn away. Yes, I’ve seen all the thinkpieces detailing, in great and unnecessary length, why Muslims are good and “to not let the actions of a few define a whole group of people.” I’ve seen this so much that it starts to annoy me. Instead, I spend much of my time on the Internet reading comments about Muslims from random people on Facebook. The comments are disgusting, vile and some of the worst things you can find online. For each comment I read, each tweet I pore over, each personally recorded YouTube video of a guy in his room explaining how we should deal with the Muslim problem, I am baffled. I know it’s stupid, but I can’t stop. I’ll find a particularly nasty one, click on the profile and stalk the shit out of them.
How are people this horrible? How can they feel this way? What traumatic event in their lives made them so hateful? How many Muslims do they actually, personally know? Behind the screen, we are anonymous. Sure, our names are there, along with our hometowns and profile pictures and favorite movies. But that’s not really us. That’s not a corporal being that we can see or hear. And for the perpetrator, there is no recipient for his hate. There is no one hurting, crying, humiliated — at least not that he can see.
Before the Internet, I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t have the new “Batman v. Superman” trailer open in one tab and some racist douche from Arkansas’ Facebook profile open in the next. Before, I would not have been aware of such existences. But now, I know exactly who hates me. I am no longer in the dark.