“What’s your name?”
It’s a simple question to ask anyone if you’re trying to get to know someone or be polite. But for Muslims, it means a world of a difference between story-telling and stereotyping, as Syrian-American poet Amal Kassir explains in her TEDxMileHigh Talk, “The Muslim on the Airplane.”
Kassir describes how in media, the streets, and even articles of clothing such as the hijab, generalizations are made, particularly about the Muslim community. When these generalizations are made, there is no room for individuality and understanding. “When we don’t ask someone their name, we’re not asking for their story,” she explains. By getting to know people, and asking things as simple as their names, you show your willingness to understand them, and their story, and not what negative connotations are associated with them.
Kassir’s message is a reminder of why it is imperative for us to push our own narratives forward. In a society where fear-mongering is used as a tool for ignorance and dehumanization, now more than ever is the time for us to tell our own stories, and shut down any narratives that try to tell our stories for us.
Amal Kassir is a Colorado native and international poet. She has performed in eight countries and more than 30 cities, in refugee camps and youth detention centers, in hotel banquet rooms and high school classrooms. She does workshops with people of all backgrounds and her vision is empowerment in marginalized youth by utilizing writing as a tool of self-determination.