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Day 1: Racism is Still Alive

By Doaa Dorgham

Fifty years ago the pivotal Freedom Ride movement began. The idea was simple: use nonviolence in order to eradicate the injustice of segregation by integrating public facilities such as public transportation. Yet as I embark on this journey, fifty years later, it is evident that racism is still alive and thriving in the United States.

I am a Muslim American and as such, flying in and out of airports is not always pleasant. As I entered the airport, with my suitcase and optimism, I instantly became aware of the stares and once again was subjected to yet another “random search.”  After a thorough pat down, I made it through security and made my way to the gate.

As I began to take out Ray Arsenault’s book Freedom Riders, my attention was drawn to a woman wearing in a brightly colored dress, drenched in a flowery design. However, the situation was nowhere near flowery. She looked me straight in eye, with a look that could shake anyone to their core. My eyes remained persistent, locked with hers, in this glare of disapproval.  I then looked at the woman and smiled.  Suddenly I noticed the brief moment of shock in her eyes; her eyes then readjusted to the same of look of repugnance she exhibited earlier.

The irony of the situation is incredibly profound. Here I am about to partake in a journey that is celebrating the effectiveness of the Freedom Rides, yet I am in an airport facing animosity and discrimination. However, like the original Freedom Riders, I refuse to let these situations ruin my ideals and faith in social justice.

Today’s first lecture was from the famous activist Diane Nash. She eloquently articulated how citizens have an obligation to be actively engaged civically, and not merely vote every two years. She stated, “We loved you, even though we didn’t know you.”  She then made it apparent that future generations will look at us, and ask what we have done for them.

Another point Nash made that clearly stuck out to me was the fact that you cannot change someone’s ideas, but you can change yourself. I believe the aforementioned statement is essential to any progressive movement. Although I cannot change people’s opinion of me as a Muslim American, I can refuse to become upset when faced with adversity, and use that power to become more proactive.

I sincerely believe that when one is faced with tremendous opportunity, it is selfish to not share such prized jewels with the rest of society. And as such, everything I learn on this incredible journey I will incorporate with “Wake Up! It’s Serious Campaign For Change” on my campus. The focus of the movement is to spur dialogue and initiate cohesion within the university as whole, addressing adversities of race, religion, and sexual orientation on campus and stopping intolerance in its tracks.

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5 responses to “Day 1: Racism is Still Alive”

  1. Rebecca Littlejohn

    8th May, 11

    “We loved you even though we didn’t know you.” What a powerful thing to be told. Looking forward to meeting you in Anniston!

  2. [...] irony of the situation is incredibly profound,” Dorgham wrote in her first blog post. “Here I am about to partake in a journey that is celebrating the effectiveness of the [...]

  3. David Hiscoe

    12th May, 11

    Thank you, Doaa, for such a thoughtful post. And thanks to all involved with this project for keeping the memory alive–and reminding us how much more there is to do.

  4. Sahar El Shafie

    13th May, 11

    I am so proud of you, Doaa!!! Civic engagement and continually shedding light on the issue of discrimination aginst Muslims/Muslimas is vital! Things haven’t changed very much when it comes to hate and ignorance in our nation. I am proud of the part you’re playing to help educate others. Keep up the good work.

    Khaltu Sahar

  5. debbie jaunich

    14th May, 11

    The key pre “justice” is to change the “pre”. We need to “prepare” ourselves to change the world by knowing the past, looking at those who have overcome tremendous obstacles to personal freedom and justice, and remembering th patience and perseverance they had in the face ignorance. Doaa, may you the inner strength to always keep a smile on your face, even when the faces don’t smile back!