2016

2016

by Lina Khodor 

Azzah Sultan

He’s President.

The leader of the “free” world.

But it was 2016

This shouldn’t be happening

Not in 2016, they say.

The left is shocked.

I call Mama after the Florida votes are in.

But it’s 2016.

This shouldn’t be happening

Not in 2016, I say again.

She tells me she knows what year it is.

Your uncle was unfairly arrested and beaten down in front of your screaming grandmother

Because of his undesirable accent, she says

In 2016.

Your cousin’s fiancé was banned from the country and from attending his own wedding

Because of his undesirable passport, she says

In 2016.

Your people saw bombs proudly bearing American flags rain down on them

because of their undesirable location, she says

In 2016.

2016 took Aleppo.

2016 took 49 people in Orlando.

And Philando Castile

And Alton Sterling

2016 was just a year.

Not a step forward.  

Years do not mean progression

She says.

The left is shocked.

 

_________________________________________________________________

“What are you?”

– You are not Human // College Party

“I know all about the Middle East, I did a mission trip in Israel.”

– College Party // Part 2

 

“You are so lucky you’re in America you know.”

– You Don’t Deserve to be Here

 

“I just shared an Al-Jazeera video on Facebook about what happened in Aleppo.”

– Social Media Activism

 

 

“Maybe you shouldn’t speak Arabic here.”

– Public Spaces // Everyday

 

“Has he ever considered shaving his beard? People will assume.”

– Becky meets Baba

 

“We’re just driving through the neighborhood, making sure everything is ok here.”

– Cops // Watch out for the Arab Family in White Suburbia

 

“Do you know what day it is?”

– September 11th

“Lina, could you explain why Islam is violent to the class?”

– High School Teacher

 

“Keep her out of the sun, she’s getting too dark.”

– 9 years old // Auntie Teaches me how to Hate my Skin

 

“Did you get that picture I sent you of that little Syrian kid who washed up on shore? Isn’t it so sad?”

– The Aestheticization of Suffering

 

“You seem angry. You gunna scream Allahu Akbar? Gunna make something explode?”

– Friendly Jokes

 

“The refugees are pouring into Germany.”

– Now you Care

 

“White guys love exotic girls.”

– Fetishize Me

 

“I’ve been to Compton, I know how violent they get.”

– Relative // Arabs can be Racist too

“Are you Muslim?”

– An Alternative to Hello

 

“Syrian refugees are rapists, terrorists, and job-stealers.”

– Middle School Best Friend // Facebook Post

 

“You don’t seem Arab. You must be an exception.”

– Pick-up Lines

 

“Mama you can’t visit me abroad, they might not let you back into the country.”

– 1st World Problems

 

“Your mom’s food looks disgusting.”

– Before Hummus was Trendy

 

“Why are your people killing mine?”

– Arabs can’t be American too

 

“Don’t mention your religion when you meet my parents, OK?”

– Ex-Boyfriend

 

“Terrorist.”

– September 12, 2001-Present

 

_________________________________________________________________

 

2017

 

I dial Mama’s number

Hang up on the fourth ring.

Redialing

I beg myself to tell her:

I am angry with the Aunties who told her I am getting too dark.

I am angry that sometimes she listened.

When they would buy me umbrellas and sun hats for Eid al-Adha as a child

Or ‘Fair and Lovely’ cream as a teenager

Smiled

Thanked them.

In 2017

I remind myself not to reach for the cream.

This year, I ask her to listen to my Anger.

 

Words that so casually slip out of their careless mouths dismantle me.

They whisper

You are not whole

You don’t deserve to be here

Not even in 2017.

Sometimes, I believe them.

How dare I take up space in a country so different than my grandparents’?

How dare I breathe the air of my colonizers?

So inconvenient.

So threatening.

Could they swallow me more easily if I break myself into bite-size pieces?

This year, I need them to understand my Hatred.

 

Why don’t they consider me American

In 2017?

Guilt suffocates me when I try to prove I am.

I will drape myself in the red white and blue.

I will whiten my skin and bleach my hair.

I will shut my mouth when they spit Allah’s name in my face.

I will hurt myself to make them comfortable.

I will hate myself for them.

Yet

Missiles which bear the flag I stand up for at every football game

Burn through the tanned flesh of faceless bodies

And no matter who our president is

Or what year it is

They still burn.

This year, I will try to reconcile my Guilt.

 

In 2017

I fear

If I crack

My Anger

My Hatred

My Guilt

Will seep through

Revealing an Angry Arab

Who stares menacingly from their television screens

With dark, foreign eyes

Who takes away their pork and liquor and American flag bikinis.

Their democracy.

 

Allahu Akbar.

Allahu Akbar.

 

God bless America.

God bless America.

 

When you see me

In a dimly-lit basement

Drowning in a room full of college students

With a red cup in my hand

And a 6 x 10, beer-stained American flag behind me

Ask me what I am

I will tell you all this

In 2017.

 

L. Khodor is an undergraduate at the University of Iowa studying International Studies on the Human Rights track. Through this collection of poems, she illustrates the many forms Islamophobia have taken in her life as an Arab-American in a post 9/11 society. She is passionately committed to defending refugee rights, critiquing Western feminism, and Beyoncé. In that order.