4 July 2013

An Arab an the Pool

I buy a ticket to the pool, just like any other citizen, take a key and head to change into my black, one-piece bathing suit. After swimming ten pools, I decide I like it here and want to make a membership. I tie a towel around the upper part of my body, and walk to the reception desk. The woman at the desk smiles at me, how may I help you, young lady. I tell her I wish to subscribe to the center’s pool, get all the information—three month program, six month program, twelve-month program—and I settle on the twelve month membership. "I need your ID card please." So I hand her my ID card, knowing what to expect. She takes the ID card—at the bottom of which there is one word, the one word which always betrays. Not me, but the person studying it. Her reality slows down as she tries to figure out in her head—without being too conspicuous about it—how to react. Should she just ignore it? Should she comment? Say that some of her best friends are like that? Or that Mustafa is her favorite car mechanic?

Looking up at me in great surprise, and almost in a whisper, confessing, "You know, if it weren’t written down here, I would have never believed you were an Arab." What is there to react to such ignorance? The only thing I manage to do is come up with a faded smile, apologizing for not looking the part.


I wrote the piece above several years ago. Rereading it, it tickles me. These surprised looks used to trigger different emotions in me. But not anymore. Sadly, living in a place that is overflowing with racism, one gets immune to the more subtle forms of it. Otherwise, we couldn't function. Because it's everywhere, all the time, non-stop.

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