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.