I even look like them — or is it us?
I have blonde hair, blue eyes and fair skin. I am Lebanese American. My whole life I’ve been raised to be proud of my roots and culture. I’ve also been raised to appreciate America and to be thankful for the opportunities it has provided my family. Balancing the two has been a struggle my entire life.
I am American with welcomed Lebanese interruptions in my daily life.
I shake my hips and sing along to my favorite Arabic songs. I attend an abnormal amount of dinner parties, with enough food to feed our villages back home. We, other Arab-Americans, gather together and behave as a large family because we all come from similar places, speak the same language and eat the same food. We find comfort in each other, knowing we are here together right now and our families are over there, together, as well.
When we go shopping, we voice our opinions in Arabic lightheartedly, speaking across the sales floor. We gossip and laugh about the times we could not grasp something “American,” like slumber parties and casual dating. People will look sometimes, and even ask the dreaded question, “Where are you from?” With a quick judgment of character, we’ll respond with “here” in most cases. When their eyes seem lighter-hearted and they ask with a genuine smile, we’ll respond, “there.”
I adorn my neck with my name written in Arabic. My father had it made for me, his little girl, while he was on a short trip to Lebanon to visit his parents. I always thought it was “just” a necklace, precious to me because of sentimental value and its gold content.
After the tragic events of this weekend, I keep thinking that I should take off my necklace, just for a little while. I’ve taken it off a few times before, only to swap it out for my Allah necklace — another sentimental piece I cherish. Without anything around my neck, I typically feel bare and unbalanced. This Tuesday morning, I feel barer than ever as my nameplate shines on this ironically bright day, framed by my V-neck collar.
My eyes widened at the thought of fear pressuring me into removing my name. The people I love most in the world, my parents, chose this name for me. This name, written so elegantly in gold, represents my language and roots. The name on my neck reminds me of my village, where people know and love me even before reading my name.
I cannot let fear strip me of my name.
My scattered thoughts have brought me back to ninth grade English class. We were forced to read Arthur Miller’s, The Crucible. Reluctantly, I turned its pages six years ago.
Finally, I finally understand John Proctor’s words:
“Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! … How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!”
My name is سارة [Sarah]. Please, leave me my name.
Written by Sarah E.
Image provided by author.