Friday, October 26, 2012

being thought of as a terrorist

Last weekend I was returning home from a conference and I had a lovely lavender sarong wrapped around my shoulders. As I was waiting for my transfer flight the sun was shining on the left side of my face so brightly that I couldn't read my book. So I took my sarong and wrapped it over my head shielding the side of my face but it also made me look like I may be covering my head for religious reasons. Apparently, to several people I looked Muslim because it didn't take long for the dirty looks to start. You know the you might be a terrorist looks. One particularly angry looking white man literally stopped about three feet in front of me and stared at me for about 5 mins. It was crazy I do not understand how our sisters wearing head coverings deal with it. Oddly enough when I received the scarf at the conference I had put it on my head and my friend said jokingly "you look like a white muslim" (BTW I'm biracial with fair skin). I almost wore it to the airport just so I could blog about what happened. Then I decided not to. Considering I had a horrible time with TSA due to the guy who pushed my wheelchair forgetting to take out my liquids its probably good I didn't. There is no telling how much worse the bad treatment I received would have been.  Frankly, I was tired and not in the mood for extra garbage from them but one day I still might. I am sick of this bias. Religious women have the right to wear head coverings without being publicly scorned. To draw a contrast there were several Mennonite women in the terminal at the very same time and while people certainly gave them some curious looks, probably thinking they were Amish, it wasn't scorn, hate, or pity. They wear head coverings too. 
Please know during this brief time I didn't feel bad for me-I felt the pain of the women who couldn't just remove their head coverings when the sun stopped shining in their face or they got tired of being stared at because they are called by their beliefs to cover their head. No one should be made to feel suspect because they are honoring their religious belief. It was worse than when I am followed in a store for being black because it was more than suspicion-it was palpable hatred. That man stared at me like he wanted to remove me from the building. In all my interactions with racism and I have had tons I haven't had that. I have felt unwelcome but not like if there were no other people there I may not have been safe. (I write this and I have served members of the Indiana clan as a waitress and stood in line with a skinhead)
I caution those of us who are not Muslim or not of a faith that wears a head covering to understand that while we may understand racism we may have never walked in another women of color (or not of color there are white Muslims)  shoes where race and religion intersects and a whole other level of bigoted ugliness arises. It is all bad and certainly one is not worse than the other. We need to respect the differences of experiences when we are discussing issues of race, religion, politics, and feminism as well.