I have never had it that direct before.
Usually it’s a comment loud enough for me to hear, but not for witnesses – “AllahuAkbar”.
This time, I had witnesses. Not ones I would have chosen.
The younger two kids were sat in the car in sweltering heat, desperate for ice cream. I found a store and took a turn looking for parking. The window rolled down, passing three females. Two teens and their mother.
“That’s an asylum seeker”, female one
“She’s a suicide bomber”, added female two.
My son turned towards her, confused. I questioned my hearing, as I have been become accustomed to whenever something like this happens. But this time these two reinforced my short-term memory. I made a snap decision to pull over but there was no space. So I made an impromptu stop at the side, on the kerb and jumped out, looking back.
“OI, WATCH WHAT YOU SAY! WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE TALKING TO?!”
That’s all that could come out. They were too far away, as they made a hurried escape down to the main road. A lady walking by, a worker from the store, stopped in her tracks and my face must have given away what happened. That was the first time I have received explicit, unconditioned validation from a white person. A cyclist coming in the opposite direction also stopped. And acknowledged the wrong. The power of supporting a victim of abuse is underestimated and actually not used enough.
A wave of emotions swept over me, crashing in my face, catching my breath. So many thoughts all at once.
Hold on, I am more educated than you, my existence benefits more people than you. I teach the likes of you. I have a position of respect and authority, unlike you. I am better than you in every respect as a citizen of this country. I WAS BORN IN THIS VERY TOWN. I GREW UP HERE. THIS TOWN WAS MINE BEFORE YOURS!
My daughter is watching. Is this going to be her perception of high school? Being abused for her headscarf?
The next day I processed my son’s feelings about the matter.
“What did you think and feel when this happened?”, I questioned.
“I was confused. Like, how can you be a suicide bomber if you are still alive? How can we attach a bomb to our car? They would have been dead too then. How can we be able to make a bomb? Why did she say that? What’s an asylum seeker?”
He goes to ask Siri. Siri promptly gives him information.
“That’s not us.”