You will be confused as you read through this piece. You might think it lacks intellectuality or a coherent connection that is found in better and fancier articles. But that’s okay.
I came to the U.S. in 2015 as an International student on F1 Student Visa. The visa is accompanied by the I-20 form which makes me legal in this country. As long as I am enrolled full time at a U.S. higher education institution, paying taxes, with a clear, crimeless record, I am all good. Or so I thought. See, I came here to escape, even for 4 years, a war zone. I was hoping to stay away from tear gas, bullets, losing friends, to stay away from an apartheid system that is similar to the South African system in many aspects. I came here carrying 2 passports, 2 ID cards, 2 permits and a bunch of “twos” that I forgot their title that would prove my existence. I carried my bags, went through 3 checkpoints, 3 airports, 4 investigations, till I landed in Chicago. For a Palestinian travelling means the actual travel time + 3 hours at each border stop for security reasons + 3 hours in luggage checking which eventually leads to a whole week of traveling and possibly missing all of your flights. I don’t want to confuse you more with the Palestinian issue, talk to me when you see me on campus and I will answer your questions. What I am trying to say is that I went through all of that hoping for a better college experience. I thought I will be in the land of the free. But since day one I was not free. I was questioned in Chicago around various topics, ranging from politics and the situations in Palestine, to the ignorant comment of “your country does not exist” by the immigration officer. I was shocked, not that I did not go through similar incidents, it was just not the America I heard of.
I had to learn that my color has a meaning. My beard has a meaning. My name has a meaning. Staring at someone (away from being weird in nature) could be translated into a threat. I learned that I am not free, that I am imprisoned by all the stereotypes about Palestinians, Muslims, and Arabs. I learned that I had to adapt to the new occupation, to police brutality, to be extra careful when at Walmart, to cover my beard when I drive through towns in Indiana. I learned to smile when someone gives me the bird or ignore the comments of two fellow students when they insult my culture and religion. It’s cool, I am used to occupations and militarization anyways. Believe it or not, minority communities are facing what I faced in Palestine. See, the protests every time a black person is killed are similar to those in Palestine, the police’s response of killing or arresting more people is also similar to that of the Israeli army. Did you know that the U.S. sends Israel $3.8B in military aid, and that police forces go to Israel to learn how to handle protests? See where I am going? Did you know that certain neighborhoods in Chicago have surveillance cameras? So, does the old city of Hebron in the West Bank. Did you know that your bad behavior in school could send you to prison? Really? A child goes to prison? Oh yes and it happens in Chicago for instance. So do 700 Palestinian children every year. See, in Palestine we call that military occupation, I’ll leave it for you to put a name to what is happening here.
Since Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, not just “died” according to a famous social media platform of the college, annual celebrations and what I call “crying” sessions have been organized. It’s great and important. But I am sure just like any other revolutionary, he would not like it. Yes he was a revolutionary even if you hate calling him that. What he would like however, is the continuation of his work and the fulfillment of his dream; our dream. Social justice, freedom, ending poverty, ending segregation, and so on. Did any of that end? No. In fact, police is militarizing more and police forces are deliberately killing black men under various names from war on drugs, to trespassing, among other allegations. So did segregation really end? No. We still have a long way to go.
See, we celebrate the memories of Martin Luther King Jr’s visit to the college, yet, you find white students sitting in the middle portion of the chapel, athletes sitting to the left, and everyone else is sitting to the right. Why? 50 years after his visit why do we still need a coalition to ask for what is a right? Why do we have to invest time, leave classes, organize protests, (if you think that using the word protest is wrong, open the dictionary!)? Why do we have to be worried about other people dictating our college experience? One last see; see, I did not come here for this. I did not come to fight another occupation, the one that Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated for. Not just died for, but assassinated for. Do not kill him again but claiming following his route while apparently every indication says the opposite Do not take pictures of poor people as you go on SST and post them online to celebrate your “coolness”, “humanitarian soul”, and “diversity”. Bro, and you sis, you are not doing them a favor, you are doing yourself a favor by being there. People in Peru, China, Tanzania, Kenya, or wherever you go have dignity, they have feelings, and while they smile for your photo, their poorness says otherwise. MLK fought for the poor too. So cut it.
I can not address every issue we have on campus in one article. I can not address the problems the U.S. has in one book. However, I hope that this article shed light on a few connections between two different struggles. And if it made you uncomfortable, I am not too sorry, I have been uncomfortable myself for too long. From Palestine to Ferguson, Black Lives Matter. R.I.P Martin Luther King Jr.