This is anon piece from an Educator and Senior Leader. Othering, Assimilation and life in the U.K.
Trying to navigate a world without a clear identity can cause a feeling of disorientation and rejection. These feelings of identity intensified by the notion that I am always the ‘other’. These feelings materialise through interactions with others and do not emerge in a vacuum within my consciousness. My first memory of being an ‘other’ was a conversation between my teacher and mother; my mother instructed to speak to me in English at home instead of Arabic so that I would not be left behind both socially and academically. It would be years before my mother found the courage to speak to me in her home language again and my father continues to talk to me in his broken English to this day.The feeling of being the 'other' became more frequent. I have memories of walking with my grandmother who before she passed always wore a headscarf in public. I remember vividly her being referred to as a p*ki by a group of white… Click To Tweet
The feeling of being the ‘other’ became more frequent. I have memories of walking with my grandmother who before she passed always wore a headscarf in public. I remember vividly her being referred to as a p*ki by a group of white teenage boys, and her laughing and telling me that they were silly because we were, in fact, Arabs (we aren’t Arabs we are Berber, can you see how confusing this gets?). In reflection, these moments pass without much thought, but such memories saturate your character. Your anxieties, self-doubt and self-loathing are symptomatic of being the ‘other’ when all you want is to fit in. Growing up on a diet of Nickelodeon, and American sitcoms you learn to hate the shell you inhabit and desire to shed it for an upgrade of blonde hair, blue eyes and fairer skin. I grew up believing that I was Moroccan, but regular visits to Morocco reminded me of all the reasons I wasn’t a native, I couldn’t speak the language, I barely understood it. My interests were different, and although I lived in an area known for it’s social and economic deprivation, I was still a lot more privileged than my extended family in Morocco.These experiences continue into my professional life, as I lacked the cultural and social capital to be able to navigate genuinely in a predominantly white middle-class space. Click To Tweet
These experiences continue into my professional life, as I lacked the cultural and social capital to be able to navigate genuinely in a predominantly white middle-class space. Globally where those from Muslim and Arab backgrounds are represented frequently as threatening, you automatically assume a position of survival and pacify your existence, so you are less threatening to your peers. I wore a mask, one that creates a new identity that presents as palatable. Not only do I explicitly denounce my family’s faith both overtly, I ensure that my tattoos and love for whisky is on display for all to see and hear, so that I an no longer the ‘other’ but one of ‘you’. Although, this makes me less ‘Islamic’ it brings me no closer to the middle-class community that inhabit the space I work. My racial identity is wrapped firmly around my soul, and there is no getting away from this. When colleagues (with whom I rarely speak with) ask me what my personal views are on Palestine, Turkey, Syria Egypt, and my feelings about terrorist acts, they remind me that I am the ‘other’. When told that I should be grateful for what this country has done for my’ people’, or whether the reason I don’t like Blur is that I prefer Arabic music (I prefer Oasis, Don’t Look Back in Anger is a classic). These are educators who have made assumptions about my heritage, interests, and cultural tastes, and placed me outside of their sphere, harmless in theory, damaging in reality. My inability to challenge these assumptions instead of nod and grin so that I do not make my white colleagues feel comfortable or fear that I may offend them feels me with an immense sense of shame. It is a constant reminder that I am the ‘other’, a soul with no home and identity more reminiscent of shattered glass.