By Nada Dibas
Cartoon by Larry Estrada
I am a Palestinian Muslim and I consciously exclude “American” from my identity. Although my documentation says I am an American, I don’t believe so.
Palestinian refugees don’t get to call anywhere home. They are always on the move because no one wants them. The only place I am made to feel at home is Palestine. I will never consider America to be my home because I’m not welcome here. I don’t want to identify with a nation that rejects me. Rejection takes many forms: even though I am not being actively removed from this country, simply existing can be difficult. It’s difficult to go to my classes and have to put in the energy to argue and banter with a white man who believes Muslims don’t have the right to privacy. It’s difficult to always be talked down to. It’s difficult to constantly be conscious of the dirty glares I am getting while dining with friends. Quite frankly, sometimes it’s dangerous just to leave my house looking the way I do.
People tell me to look at all that this nation has done for me, but I will not applaud people for being decent human beings. People want me to be thankful for the basic human rights that come with having U.S. Citizenship. But here’s the thing about rights, they’re not privileges, they’re rights. I don’t owe America a “thank you” for giving me the right to vote.
Let’s be real, women only achieved that right 90 years ago and black people only 60 years ago. How far have we really come?
Although it is hard to look beyond our own bubble of being, there exists multiple worlds beyond the one we live in. The most beautiful gift life has to offer is the ability to exist in multiple worlds at once. While it comes with its struggles, there is nothing more significant than these hardships. There is nothing more worth being able to switch between languages, understanding different societal norms, adapting easily to different environments, being able to engage in a majority of conversations or having the ability and desire to know more about the conversations you have a hard time contributing to. I attribute this to the different worlds I’ve had the privilege of experiencing.
I was born in San Diego and lived here until I was 10. I then moved to Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates and my family and I lived there for a year. We then moved to Abu Dhabi, UAE and we lived there for almost 7 years before I moved back to San Diego. During those 7 years, we moved a lot within the city. I’ve been to a total of 3 different high schools but never stayed for more than two years. I was bullied here in San Diego prior to moving for being the Arab kid and I was bullied in the UAE for being the American kid. I was never Arab enough for the Arab kids, and I wasn’t American enough for the American kids.
The bullying ended after the 6th grade when I learned to embrace my mixed experiences. It made me cooler than all the other kids. Everyone wanted to be my friend and I instantly turned into a popular kid.
My main concern when moving to the UAE was food and TV. I was so worried they wouldn’t have disgusting fast food restaurant (little did I know, I would, and they would be better) and I was so worried I wouldn’t have my precious Disney Channel (which I didn’t, but I adapted and I survived). America isn’t the greatest country in the world and I’m glad I was able to venture out and see that. I’ve been all over and there are very few nations that the United States is superior to.
Seeing all that I’ve seen and being everywhere that I have been, I speak from a wealth of experience. I have a lot more to experience. My experiences have made me who I am today. Who is Nada Dibas? She is a Palestinian Muslim Activist Hijabi Queen who will continue to fight injustices across the nation and the world.