"I CHOOSE WHO I AM! I represent me & only me!"
"Yes, I’m Palestinian. No, I can’t Dabke."
4th year Creative Writing major
Were you born here and if so how did it feel to be raise by parents who are from a different culture than the one you are currently being raised in?
· I was born here in America. This makes things a little complicated, but you habve to try your best. My parents raised me to take Palestinian culture and American culture, but sometimes these cultures conflict and it makes it really complicated. Say what you want to do is ok in one culture and not in the other, you have to always be aware of what you are doing and pay attention to that.
Is there anything you wish you could do if you were not tied down by your cultural expectations?
· To be honest, when im here in America I don’t see it hold me back but when im back in Palestine I will feel a difference, but here in American culture I feel like there is nothing that holds me back
Do plan on marrying someone of your own race? Is that the same as marrying someone in the Middle East from a different country?
· I think in retrospect, yea. I guess that would make it difficult. My parents really want and expect that, marrying a Palestinian and then a Middle Eastern, if it extends to that. It just makes you handicapped and the pool that you could look for a lot smaller.
Have you been in anyways undermined for your gender in your culture?
· Yea if I am around other people of the culture. Like I said, my family specifically don’t have a problem, we have created our own boundaries within our culture. We will go to family gatherings with family from Palestinians ot Jordanians, and we will say “oh, we are going to get some ice cream” and they will say “its night time, you cant leave” but we are a responsible group of girls and they stills say that we cant go. I see with a lot of other people and in respect to our culture, yea I see it.
Are there any scenarios you have been placed in that contradict your culture that you have had to defend yourself for?
· Sometimes when im more pious or more religious, for example, if you are really religious when we go to mosque lot or prayer a lot, we go to prayer meetings that start at 11 o’clock at night and go till the morning time. some people in our culture say no you cant go, be pious in your own home. it is restrictive that way. my culture in practice restricts women and wants us to stay bottled up, or if people find out that my mom is allowing me to go to mosque at 10 o’clock at night say “she doesn’t need to be there”. My parents are a little more open, but this does have a lot to do with me being the sixth kid raised here. Obviouslybecause my siblings have taught my parents so much, I don’t have to fight as much, because its veen opened for me. But the thing that culture never played a role with me is that we were never kept from getting an education or not able to drive, it was basically that we cant do anything at night. And night starts when the sun goes down, even if it’s the winter and the sun goes down at 4:30, that’s considered night. That was the biggest thing we had to teach our parents that if you are doing something good and productive, its ok. But there are still people in our culture that think it is bad.
In front of other cultures, have you ever had to defend yourself, have ever been looked at wrongly, or felt discriminated against?
· Yea, definitely. Especially among a lot of Muslims, because that’s the religion I practice, amongst them, Palestinians are seen as the more cultural ones and really really really prideful because it is an occupied land, but I do harbor a lot of pride for being Middle Eastern and Palestinian, so I feel like sometimes I have to defend myself for that, so I say “get to know me”. And also when people tell me I’m not even full Palestinian, I tell them I am allowed to practice the culture I want to and you cant take that away from me. So with Palestinians, I have to defend myself because they don’t think that because I am not always in the political phase that I don’t, and I will defend people and try to start discourse but some people in our culture believe that with everyone you meet, you have to have a hard exterior about your situation and you have to get them to hear your side, but I don’t believe that that type of discourse causes change in society.
What do you feel is one thing that empowers you within your culture?
· I don’t feel that there are a lot of things in my culture that give me empowerment, I think that religiously or familial, I feel empowered. I do feel empowerment when dealing with a situation and I can tell someone that I have been to Palestine and I do see how it is, I feel empowered through that retrospect and the privilege of that. In regards to actually being able to experience Palestine and there are others whos grandparents left with the occupation and they don’t know anything about Palestine besides what they have heard just like anyone else. I definitely feel empowered knowing tha ti have seen the culture with my own two eyes.
What is your best quality/ characteristic?
· I don’t like talking about myself. But honestly I would say that my quality would be understanding and empathizing. Sometimes it may be after I meet someone and they leave me, but I always try to stop at the end of my day and seeing someone and thinking for a moment, okay this is exactly how they feel, but empathy and understanding is a step further in trying to gage and see the directions that people are coming from. I really try my best to do that and I think that on different levels that I reach that more than other people. A characteristic is “curves, more to love”. Even when I go home people say, “you live in America and you still have the curves and the structure.
In opposition, is there anything that you regret about the Middle Eastern culture or being Middle Eastern?
· No. its not something I think about. I don’t wake up saying, “I wish I was black today, or I wish I were white”, its not something I think about. Sometimes I wish that paletinians idnt have such a stereotype surrounding them, but I don’t think that it’s a physical attribute, it just means the way it was practiced culturally.
What myths and/or stereotypes would you like to address concerning your culture?
· A lot of people say that, “you Middle Eastern women are good for staying at home and staying in the kitchen”, but people need to understand that women in my country are being asked everyday, what do they want to do and they are going after what they want. So when they chose to sit at home or to get married or to work, it is slowly becoming a matter of personal choice and I think that it doesn’t exist as much as we think it does. I think that girls who are both Middle Eastern and American are starting to realize that they need to have their choice and they need to ask because that’s their right. And your culture can only hold you back so much, especially in big life decisions.
What are you personally passionate about?
· I realy like being around kids and teenager, and I think that if people were to stop and listen to them for a moment, you would realize how much of an impact it has on people. we think that with kids, you cant have discourse with them, but you could learn so much from them by sitting there are asking them and give them the attention and needs they want. I think about working around them, because I could never get bored. I can work with anyone of any age, but I especially like working with that age group.
What was your experience growing up as a Middle Eastern in America during this specific time period?
· My experience is that I have to turn it off and turn it on, my cultural things that I’m used to . like for example, when I’m with my family and I say that I am doing things with my American friends they say its fine because they know that it wont be a problem, but when it comes to someone who is Middle Eastern, they ask if their parents are okay with it because there is so much cultural responsibility that is placed on girls and there always has to be this upheld quality and they have these specific ideas of what polite us and what a girl should be and its crucial to uphold it and I try my best to have peope understand that each individual is different and your humane ideas should always be kept on whether you are of the American culture or the Middle Eastern culture. Sometimes I struggle with that but I don’t want to shove it in anyone’s face. But today I’m American because everyone around me is American.
What do you want people to know about your culture?
· I would want them to know what they would want to know. I mean, I don’t personally see as much disempowerment. But I guess that if I was to tell someone right off the bat, I would tell them that cultures vary from country to country and city to city so you could meet someone who is Palestinian from this city and they will be different than a Middle Eastern person from another city. There is no way to categorize a people when there are differences based on people from the same country but living in different cities and having different backgrounds.