Are you sure you’re Arab?
Updated: Aug 2, 2020
By: Malak Hussein
“So where are you from?” a random girl asks.
“I'm fro...,” I try to answer but I was cut off immediately.
“Wait I know! let me guess…Ireland,” the random girl interrupts.
“Hm,” she ponders, “how about British and like a mix of Irish? I mean you definitely look like it! You’re super pale, you got light brown hair and those green eyes.”
“Actually I'm not.” I try my best not to laugh, as she continues.
“Hm wait, wait, somewhere from Europe?”
“I'm actually Lebanese” I reply as her eyes widen in surprise.
“Wait, aren’t Lebanese people mostly tan and brown eyed? I’ve never seen a pale Lebanese person, oh wait so your father's Lebanese?”
“Yes and...” yet again I'm interrupted by her excited screech,
“And your mother’s British!” her eyes pulsated with victory as she jokingly pointed at me, trying to tell me that she has won the guessing game. She had no idea she was way off.
“My mother and father are both Lebanese, I promise.” I couldn’t hold in the cackles anymore as I stared at her dumbfounded face.
“Ah I see, you probably have grandparents who are French, you know how genetics work?” she laughed it off nonchalantly. I continue to tell this girl that I'm fully Arab, and she could not believe her eyes. Was I offended? Not the slightest bit if anything, it was comical! Especially when this was my first encounter on my first week of university in Kuwait. What an experience right?
Another moment similar to this would be at the Cinema, my favorite place on Earth. As my father and I exited the Cinema after an incredibly packed movie, a crowd of people were being escorted out and given directions to head to a different exit due to maintenance. Now, my dad and I were joined with a crowd of 50 plus people. A Kuwaiti man who was a part of the cinema staff stood 6 feet away from us. He was guiding and giving directions to people in Arabic “Go here”, “No the old exit is closed off.” and so on. He kept speaking in Arabic towards the people who passed him in front of us. When we reached closer to where he was and locked eyes with him he adorably started speaking broken English, trying his best to inform us on where to go. We nodded in appreciation and as soon as I locked eyes with my dad we started laughing uncontrollably.
This is a very recurring experience for me. I was born and raised in Kuwait but I'm Lebanese. My complexion is pale; my eyes are green and I have light brown hair. I always get compared to a “Westerner” and again, I'm not offended but rather astonished on how being “light or pale” should mean you are most likely European. You can be pale and Arab just like how you could be black/brown/white/mixed and still be a certain nationality. This is the beauty of humanity. We all come in different shapes, colors and forms. I understand that these distinctions are created by stereotypes from the media. I truly believe humanity is more than that, if anything it's diverse. Nationality shouldn’t be tied down to race and it should be acknowledged that different nationalities may have a range of different and diverse races. Building or trying to understand a race/culture through media is not enough. You see, the media always has an agenda, whether it be good or bad. We constantly see the unjust stereotypes circulating the media and brainwashing the masses. Making them think dire of another group/race. The world is such a vast and wide space for us to reach out. I believe that the media alone won’t educate us on culture/race. We must get out there, get to know people and understand their perspectives. A phone call or a gathering to try to understand another fellow human who may be different in nationality/race but is also a unique person with different traditions aside our own. That is the true meaning of diversity, it’s not based on the skin color or the nationality but rather how different we all are and that’s ok. Imagine every single human being, being the exact copies of one another, what kind of world would that be? Only with compassion and an open mind will we learn and move forward to create a unified and diverse human identity.