Misdefined by categories

February 19, 2021

My parents moved to the US in - well, my dad moved in 1995 while my mom, they were already married, but my mom stayed in Syria and then she came afterwards to follow him a year afterwards. But he went to medical school in Damascus and then he came over to the US to do his residency at Rush Hospital in Chicago. And then we moved to Effingham when I was seven. And I've lived in Effingham ever since. But yeah, in most places I don't really remember much from Michigan or obviously Chicago - I was two months old. But I do remember living in Arkansas. I can remember a ton, we had this neighbor who lived across the street, his name was Johnny. He always thought that we were Mexican because he, like in the South, almost everyone who isn't White is Hispanic of some sort. And they didn't know what Syria was. And this is before any of the controversy or anything happened in Syria. So it wasn't really in the news either. So, like, they just didn't even know that Syria existed and they always thought we were Mexican. And as someone who grew up with like Syria, like going to Syria every summer, it always, like, floored me that other people didn't know what Syria was.

Yeah, like the SAT and stuff like that. They always list - I think it's like White, Hispanic, Alaskan or American Indian Native, Black, White. And they never, I mean, the government doesn't make a distinction between White people and Middle Eastern people. And like, you can ask anybody if some Syrian guy with the beard and the turban is White and they're going to say, no, it's like very obvious that they're not White. But like on that survey, I was forced to choose the "White" box because that was the only one that was close enough to describe me, even though I wanted to put "Other. I am Middle Eastern. Fix your survey." Likee, stuff like that, I think there's a reason for it.

Something about where Syria, the Middle East is, on the Mediterranean Sea or something like that. And like there's some I don't know, there's a convoluted reason for why Middle Easterners are assumed to be White and like government surveys and stuff like that, or just surveys in general. But it just, I just feel like it's just wrong. I mean, I don't like being forced to identify as White. I'm not White and it's not like - I have nothing against White people, is just not it's not how I feel about myself. So like, I'm being constantly forced to put "White" on surveys. I always want to ask the people who made the survey, like, do you really think Arabs are White? Like you really think like this person. You see, like I mean, like you make terrorist jokes and stuff like that. You're going to say terrorists are White? Like you're not - nobody believes that. Like nobody's thinking Arab people are White. So like why is the survey like that? I don't know why, but, yeah.

Maryann Saba

Maryann Saba is a junior and serves as multicultural commissioner for Flaherty Hall.