When I walk Down the streets of this
College-town I see Hands smashing beer bottles
Friends only of one-another
Screaming chants alien
To my covered ears
I began my freshman year at the University of Michigan bright-eyed and ready to learn. As the years went on, however, I started to realize how diversity, equity and inclusion are just empty words in a University campaign slogan. This was also the first time I really felt unsafe as a Muslim in America, with incidents of hate only getting closer to home, when walking home late at night posed real dangers. I watched as students, professors and administrators dismissed acts of hate toward Muslims and other minorities on campus, instead of holding one another to a higher standard.
I have learned
To be wary
Strain to see
Three streets ahead of me
To see if I feel anyone Is a danger to me
My head covered In a scarf
That tells you I don’t belong here
I now anticipate discriminatory actions and hate crimes as if they are inevitable. Unfortunately, in my four years on campus, I have yet to be proven wrong. I quickly learned that students of color at the University have to work together to create a collective voice for there to be any change. I watched as students and faculty around me ignored the repercussions of such hate. I first realized this when major news outlets blamed Muslim students for trying to “infringe on freedom of speech” over the movie “American Sniper” and the University failed to protect its students. I then began to realize that the story of being unheard was interlinked among all underrepresented communities on campus, and sought to change this.
Posters plastered with DIVERSITY EQUITY and INCLUSION ALL FOR YOU.
Empty slogans I have yet to see become a part of this city.
Though students at the University are required to take a class that fulfills the Race and Ethnicity requirement, the courses are often broad and loosely related to race and ethnicity.
I noticed that, although I tried to share my own stories as well as the experiences of other students of color on campus in The Michigan Daily, it simply was not enough to create a change in the student body.
It is too easy to stay self-segregated by race, class and ideology on a campus this large. It is much too late to be teaching students about diversity if they have never learned about it in a meaningful way in earlier their education.
Every incident of hate may have brought me down, but it also taught me to self-advocate as a Muslim student and as a reporter and writer of others’ stories. As I saw these incidents unravel around me, I started to develop an eye for cases of inequity everywhere I went — in and outside of Ann Arbor. I started to write, which gave me the ability to be articulate in writing, especially when voicing my opinions was difficult for me. I cannot stop talking about inequity, and because I believe that issues of diversity and equity should be taught much earlier, I decided to enter the School of Education for secondary teaching.
What I found in education, however, was even more shocking. As I interned in different middle and high schools, I saw the stark contrast between resources in low-income areas and the other schools in my rotation. Education, regardless of what level, is not equitable across America, and without an equitable allocation of resources, teaching about these issues can feel hypocritical.
As a student-teacher, I live a double-life, trying to balance teaching with learning at the University, and I can see how the education system is flawed in ways that creates inequalities in education, often heavily based on demographics. The more I learn about students and their perspectives on the world, the more important I realize it is to both teach and practice equity across America. And the first step in doing this is to stop being afraid to try to make changes for a better future.
As I move on to becoming a teacher and leaving the University, I am grateful for what I have learned from others because I chose to seek people who have different perspectives than me, and I hope that I can make change, one class at a time.
And I am getting worn from speaking into a void, while trying to hold myself together in this peculiar world.
But I am trying to ignite that fire inside of me.
I am trying to ignite that fire inside of me.