|In January 2002, my sixth grade teacher put a picture on the chalkboard. The picture was of a man with a long black beard, and a black turban on the top of his head, with a blue background. The guy looked like someone from the Middle East. The teacher said, “Look at him, and write down who you think he is.”
At this, everyone got out a pencil and paper, and began writing down who they thought he was. Me, I took a look at the man’s eyes, and saw a friendly look, with a hint of sadness, and thought, “Okay, he’s an everyday man, with some trouble.” I wrote down that he was a camel herder who was searching for his missing brother.
A few minutes later, the teacher collected the papers and began reading them off. There was a common answer; “He’s a terrorist,” was what most of the other students wrote, with one writing a very graphic description of what they’d do to him if they caught him. Then again, the person who wrote that had made an Egyptian-style drawing in which she was a pharaoh, and she was having Osama bin Laden whipped. Needless to say, it made me wonder; did they see his eyes? He’s no terrorist.
Then, the teacher said, “I see what you guys think of this man. Let me tell you who he is; he’s a cab driver from New York City.”
Okay, my guess about him being a camel herder looking for his brother was off, but my guess seemed to be amongst the fairest ones.
I’ll admit that 9/11 had taken place a few months prior, and when many people thought about Middle Easterners, they probably thought about the guys that crashed the planes, and killed innocent people, and all of that stuff. However, what I saw in that classroom was hate for a guy’s ethnicity, and prejudice. Something tells me that if we had a Middle Eastern Exchange student in the class at that moment, he’d of been torn to pieces, figuratively speaking.
Now, roughly ten years later, with reports of Osama bin Laden having been killed during some attack on a camp, or whatever, on the news, I have to wonder; if the assignment was given today, what would people think about that cab driver? An Honest Camel Herder or a Wicked Extremist Terrorist?