A January sunrise. I was Chapel Hill-bound on the highway outside Siler City when I hit a deer.
Shocked, I had thought only climate change-denying, Student Stores-privatizing evildoers could so cruelly kill a deer, and I thought killing a deer meant you go to jail.
But the cop who showed up didn’t try to arrest me. He just looked at me, concerned, and said, “No, you’re not in trouble,” and he was so kind, so gentle, and this was rural North Carolina, and my friend was wearing a headscarf. He knew we were Muslim; he didn’t care. He summoned paramedics, and they too were so gentle as they sponged blood off my face.
Did you think that I would forget that? That I hadn’t noticed, that I didn’t care?
Perhaps Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris “It-was-a-parking-dispute-not-a-hate-crime” Blue can read this and be inspired.
I was back from studying abroad. I had to go to the bank in good old Concord immediately with my mom. An insistent man “helping” me with my luggage in Copenhagen’s train station had stolen my debit card. The lady at the bank tsk-tsked at “foreigners,” and rolled her eyes to say, what else can you expect from them?
If that lady was just slightly clever with geography, she’d know most Danes look like her, light-haired, light-eyed, while my looks equate to a dirty Mexican, filthy Muslim or a demonic cross-breed between the two. Yet, the Danes were “foreigners” while I was home safe in North Carolina.
Don’t you think that you could please just stay like that?
(An aside: I’d been in Sweden five months without incident, then got robbed as soon as I strolled into Denmark. Figures. If you haven’t yet, you should nominate me for Swedish Twitter, it’s our one chance to have a nation’s Twitter spew “Go to hell, Duke” every five minutes.)
I was in “family values” Mt. Pleasant assembling for Muslim Eid prayers, the day after the Chattanooga shooting. I’ve always felt the 2015 Chapel Hill murder of three young Muslims was “punishment” for France’s Charlie Hebdo massacre a month earlier — like everybody really started hating us after that, if they hadn’t already. I wasn’t sure what would happen after Chattanooga. My fifth grade best friend, the only one who invited me to her birthday party and showed me how to savor the heart of a honeysuckle, lives in Chattanooga. How do you think I felt?
At the arena — which hosted my high school graduation — police directed traffic of the thousands of Muslims descending upon Mt. Pleasant, which I believe before this had been unbesmirched by any Muslims besides my family. Seeing so many Muslims in Mt. Pleasant, of all places, was unreal. Arena workers watched us pray. Volunteers baking in the heat outside smiled at the little Muslims kids, saying they were cute. I’ve rarely felt so vulnerable yet cared for. During the prayers, I almost cried — OK, I did cry — overwhelmed and afraid as to how, amidst future violence, we will keep this up.
I wish that you could just stay like that.