"I am who I am because of where I come from because of the Indian Muslim culture I have been brought up within"
Author: Sarah Mohammed
I came to the U.S. when I was 25, bright-eyed and young, ready for anything.
In my conservative family in India, marriage was the only option for a young woman. But I didn’t want just to get married — I wanted to live and work outside, to dream and find my place in the world. I promised my family I would get married soon -- which I did -- and came to America, with little money and knowing so little about these new people and cultures around me. I was excited by the opportunity in this country. I had heard about the “American Dream” — the golden, blessed gates, the chance for a future that was bigger than I could have ever dreamed of. I hoped my American Dream would become a reality.
After settling in America, I soon learned what it would be like to embark on a future in America as an Indian Muslim woman. When I applied for jobs, I watched my work be disregarded because of my Muslim name. In the workplace, my coworkers would not take me seriously. I felt discouraged, but I hid my feelings from my family, from my husband. I didn't want to be told to go back to India or to become a stay-at-home wife. I took the struggles I faced and tried to make the most of them -- working long hours into the night to prove that I could do the work as well as anyone else, trying to minimize my Indian accent by practicing in the mirror in the mornings. Although it was not enough, and I never felt as though I was treated the same way as the people around me, it helped me come to terms with my situation and reassure me that I am doing my best.
I began to feel empowered in my identity, embracing the stares from employers when they looked at the name on my resume because, in the end, I am who I am because of where I come from, because of the Indian Muslim culture I have been brought up within.
After September 11, I was confronted with even more violence, racism, and belittling because of my identity. And yet — I did not feel discouraged. I remembered: I traveled an entire ocean, seas filled with salt and rubble, to come to this country. I belong here as much as anybody does. And I have come too far and given up too much to stop here. I will keep going, keep learning, and keep working.