20 January 2007

Born Palestinian...in America

I often feel that, as people of color, our authenticating factor is the extent to which we've suffered due to our status as people of color, and also the specific ways in which we've suffered. And the more we have suffered in those ways, the more authenticly Other we are. If we have not suffered a sufficient amount in those specific ways, our authenticity is called into question. This can be a self-conscious feeling and/or actually expressed by other members of our group. Both our right to inclusion in our group and the work we do to help our communities might be called into question based on any educational, economic or citizenship privileges we may have or be perceived as having.

It seems that being Palestinian is synonymous with suffering, but what about being a '48 Palestinian who grew up somewhere else, who's parents grew up somewhere else? What about being a Palestinian American? Al-Falasteenyia's recent post summed up a lot of things that I have been thinking about recently.

And as I walked I began to imagine what would happen if these streets were filled with the IDF tanks…enforcing a curfew- locking everyone indefinitely in their apartments. What if soldiers vandalized these very shops- kill these very pedestrians-….and I tired to picture myself living, witnessing 1948. It’s one thing to always talk about it, but I am sure it’s nothing like being there, seeing it. It is like how I always talk about Palestine, and my identity as a Palestine, totally disconnected from the events that continue to effect me and shape who I am.
Looking back it, I was used to (and still am) experiencing Palestine in academic settings, intellectual panels/convo’s, and activism....that had shaped my identity. But all this was gone now, as I sat in a huge room with other Palestinians, waiting. Right then and there, I lost my identity. To be a Palestinian meant sitting at borders and checkpoints, it meant living it everday- and not through reading the news, or being an activist, or wearing a hatta, or thinking about Palestinians “over there”. It meant “being there”….and I know this issue has come up before in previous posts I’ve written- on being, or not being, a Palestinian. It’s just that this term has come to mean so many things….my life is different from other Palestinians in that I do not experience apartheid everyday. I acknowledge it of course, campaign against it, but I don’t actually experience it. and my brief 4 day journey into Palestine, was barely an experience….it was like the tip of the ice berg. On the other side of things, as an American, my ethnic background is always questioned: and people can never guess- I mean they try to- I’ve been previously classified as Russian, Romanian, Canadian, French, Spanish, Italian, British, Iranian, Albanian, Greek, Latina….i can go on- but the point here is classification. Everyone here in America must be classified (on a societal level). If you are multiracial, well people want an explanation….I’ve found out that they can’t not know your background. They want to know- and this is true of everyone. It only becomes an issue when the observer takes a look at u and cant decide right away if you’re black, white, or Dominican. So they become confused….afterall, how else are they to interact with you? And in these cases, after a few guesses I do not hesitate to tell people I’m Palestinian. For example, at the Doc’s office one of the technicians asked me and she seemed puzzeled at my answer…like she’s never heard of such a thing. Her colleuage turned to her and said, “Palestinian! Don’t you know? Palestine, next to Israel…” Then of course you have people who, no matter how many times you tell them you are Palestinian, insist that you are Pakastani- but I digress.
What does being Palestinian mean to me? I hadn't thought of it specifically before. To me, identifying as Palestinian in the US is important because it increases visibility, it let's people know that, yes, we do exist.


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