“My dad is from Algeria in North Africa. He is Berber (close to, but not quite, an Arab), is Muslim, likes soccer, and became a citizen in 1985. He met my mom in Paris and they were married shortly after. He is a hard worker, loves his family, and still likes soccer. A week after the terror attacks my dad shared that he had been called a “sand nigger,” a “camel jockey,” and heard coworkers wondering aloud where his turban was. My “friends” at school began wondering if my dad knew the terrorists that flew into the World Trade Center. If he made bombs. If his family had terrorists in it.
Our house was egged.
I did not see a lot of goodness in America during that time. I saw hate; poison leeching out over the fabric of our nation. I saw a vile nation. I saw a nation regressing.
But not all hope was lost. I made better, more understanding friends. Friends willing to learn. Friends willing to embrace a half Berber, Catholic, literature-consuming nerd.
It’s been professed that America needs to be made great again. Well I disagree. To what time period are we referring? When systemic racism permeated our nation? When women couldn’t vote? When hate groups terrorized their brothers and sisters living next door?
I do believe that America is inherently good. That beyond prideful nationalism, there are good things happening each day in America, every single minute. I know that the scrolling crawl bar at the bottom of TV screens does not show them, but they are there. I see them every day.
Teaching in America is not the most rewarding job. Dealing with over 90 students and all their hormonal personalities each day is tough. Watching education become a talking point in politics is dehumanizing. Getting paid in good feelings forces me to decide if I’m going to purchase gas or apples the last week of the month. Defunding education in North Carolina has become so politicized and economically fruitless that new teachers are leaving in droves and veteran teachers are picking up second or third jobs.
But I get to help high school juniors raise their reading levels from second grade to fifth grade. I see our Latino student club run a soccer tournament with a bigger turnout than most of our school sponsored sporting events. I get to watch the popular senior validate the shy girl’s opinion. I get to see students dialoguing about racism in a healthy, hate-free environment. Groups of students bringing their various talents to their Edgar Allan Poe projects and watching their peers marvel at the results, right in front of me. Often, I witness students of all faiths sitting together at the same table in the cafeteria and talk about Drake and just be friends. If high school students can transcend prejudices then why can’t America?”
More from Mira Rahili, in the first issue of The Porch, available here.