Dear few and dedicated readers,
My husband surprised me on his birthday with my own website. I will still be blogging, but at……drum roll pleaaassee:
Hope to see you there!
Yesterday (November 4th) I had the great pleasure of being part of a panel discussing Islamophobia and the “Othering” of Muslims at Wesleyan University. It was sponsored by the Interfaith Justice League. Two professors were also a part of the panel, Dr. Ahmed, who teaches for both the Religion Dept. as well as Women and Gender Studies and Dr. Lim, an extremely articulate government professor. The questions were thought provoking and while we couldn’t have possibly answered all of them, I think enough were sufficiently answered to have students reach out and pursue more knowledge in this area.
There were many highlights to the event, but I wanted to mention one in particular which really made me think. Dr. Lim told us that one of the major problems of liberals is that they are too quick to get to the conclusion of remarks as opposed to delineating the premises. When someone says, “I’m just not ready for a black President,” we are quick to either say, “You’re a racist,” or think, “I have to respect this person’s feelings, because people are allowed to have feelings, so I will nod in understanding.” Either way, both reactions are extremely flawed. We should be pushing back and asking, “What do you mean when you say you are not ready?” Whenever people mention any type of discomfort, we should really try to find out what it is that makes them uncomfortable, because while the conclusion will be the same (racism), by having them unpack their feelings, they may be able to come to the conclusion all on their own.
What does it really mean when Juan Williams says, “I get nervous when I see Muslims wearing Muslim garb on my flight.” Let’s push him a little. Does he get nervous when he sees Muslims on the street? How does his nervousness correlate with his fear of Muslims in general? The fact that people actually defended Williams’ remarks because he’s allowed to share “his feelings” is quite frightening. Because this is racism, hidden under the cloud of feelings which usually are not associated with being a threat.
When you feel discomfort, try to unpack it. Those feelings may be a lot more powerful than you think.
Many things remind me of fall. Stomping on crunchy leaves as a kid, volleyball practice as a high-schooler, and yams baking in the oven, always. These memories are cozy ones and are reignited as the humidity of summer is replaced with early morning dew. And maybe this one particular memory is so embedded in my mind because baba and I have made it tradition…
Baba walks into my room. “I think you should put on a shirt that you don’t really like. Or, one you don’t mind staining.”
I rummage through the pile of clothing laying on my desk chair and find an already stained shirt. More stains won’t matter. I make my way into the kitchen where baba has some newspapers laid out, a sharp knife, a bowl and three large pomegranates. He cracks one open and gives me half. We start the long process of picking apart the pomegranates. We’re careful not to throw the rind in with the seeds since it is so tough and sour. The process is relaxing, just baba and I plucking the juicy seeds out of their cocoons, trying not to make a mess. One can’t be in a hurried dash during this time. The pomegranates won’t let you.
After awhile baba reflects, “You know, pomegranates are mentioned in the Qur’an. Not just once, but three times!”
I nod. In my head I wanted to acknowledge that baba told us this every year since we were little, but I didn’t want to take away his teaching moment. I didn’t need a POM commercial to tell me that pomegranates are powerful fruits. These “Chinese Apples” filled our breakfast bowls before school. Soaked in rose water and sweetened with a little sugar, we would eat our morning pomegranate with some sliced bananas. I don’t really remember anyone else in our family liking it, except baba and I.
After my daughter’s check up at the pediatrician, I decided to make a stop at the grocery store. I had my list somewhere in the abyss of the diaper bag. Too much of a hassle to take out, I reassured myself that I would remember the items our family needed and I wouldn’t go overboard with the things not on the list. As I walked towards the produce section, the pomegranates were staged dead center of the aisle. $1.99 each. I remembered the great times with baba- picking the seeds and counting the purple hued stains on our shirts when it was all over. Most of the pomegranates there were pretty bruised. I managed to find two that were in relatively good shape.
I walked over to the cash register, proud that I hadn’t veered way off course of my list which was still swimming between the wipes and diapers. A free cashier waves for me to come over, cooing at the sleepy baby.
“Ooh, brave woman! Those pomegranates can get messy. I had one for lunch. It took my whole lunch break to pick it apart!” the cashier exclaimed as she eyed the fruit.
I smiled, secretly looking forward to the peaceful moments and continued tradition of picking apart the pomegranates.
When I came home, I took out the bowl, lay some old magazines around the table, and waited for my husband to return from work. As he entered our apartment, I looked at his shirt and said rather matter-of-factly, “I think you should put on a shirt you don’t really like. Or, one you don’t mind staining.”
What traditions have you carried along from your childhood?