When you hurl words like“to go back your country” or where you are you from, “originally” at me before any introduction or greeting, I wonder if you hear yourself. You hear how in less than thirty seconds you have made me realize that I am not part of this country and there will never be a time when you will ever think I have compromised enough to fit your definition of “American.” The word compromise might sound strange to you because you never demanded of me directly. The dictionary definition of compromise is to settle a dispute by mutual concession but I never saw you give up anything so that we can both coexist. You have asked me to take off my Hijab and get rid of my accent because my Hijab somehow made you uncomfortable and my accent made it hard for you to understand me when I talk. I agreed. Then you ask me to straighten my hair because it’s too curly or nappy for you to accept that it is someone’s definition of beauty. I once again agreed. That was not enough so you ask me to lighten my skin by bleaching it because being black and having a dark skin is apparently something to be ashamed of; although you are the first in line every time we come up with something new. After all of this, I often find myself thinking about when will the compromises be enough? How many do I have to make before you feel I qualify to be considered “normal American.” When will I be getting my diploma telling me I have now graduated and is accepted into your normal American or was that just one of your many lies. I wonder if you even realize there is a big difference in being African and African American. You probably don’t because you never had to. I wonder if you know the difference between being an immigrant, an asylum seeker or refugee. Now that I mention these things, you are probably wondering which category I belong in because with your narrow-mindedness comes with your inability to look beyond yourself and find that there “are normal Americans” that could easily fall into these categories. You are probably now very curious as to which categories I fall into. I will tell you because I am a true believer that we should educate all. I am a refugee. Now that I mentioned that, the other immediate though you probably have is, where you vetted? This might be hard to believe but the answer is yes, for almost three years. The average is two year, so rest assured. You see, as a refugee, I literally had no choice but to come here because the only time a person leaves their home is when home won’t let you stay. As British Somali poet Warsan Shire put it in her poem “Home.”
No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark,
You only run for the border, when you see the whole city running as well you
neighbors running faster than you breathe blood in their throats,
When the boy you went to school with who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory is holding a gun bigger than his body( lines1-4).
You will never meet a refugee who will tell you otherwise. So next time you have the urge to yell at me with your hateful I want to you to remember a couple of very simple things. I want you to remember I would not be here if I did not have to. Remember that although I am here I will not compromise where there is no actual compromise. I will not take off my Hijab or get rid of my accent so that you can feel comfortable. I will not straighten my hair because I enjoy that my hair is curly and your straightener can’t tame it even if it tried. I want you to remember all of these but most importantly I want you to remember that I do not want to fit in your definite of what it means to be an American.
Shire Warsan. Home is the barrel of the gun. Youtube Video, 2;51. Posted by “Paultje Piraat.” May 30th, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybTM-aaJxS0&t=77s