I Smell Discrimination

By Rima Fadlallah, LSA Sophomore at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

I wrote this piece to expose the injustices I faced as an Arab-American attending Fordson High School in Dearborn, Michigan, where much of the staff truly believed as Arab Muslims, we (because “we” made up over 95% of the school) were inferior.  Many members of my community endure these same injustices today, and what is most problematic to me is the lack of awareness that I still see in many of my peers.  As a high-schooler, I was naïve in the same ways—I did not want to believe people could be so hateful and ignorant.  Since then, I’ve embarked on a journey of enlightenment, and I’d only hope that by telling my story, I can enlighten others in the same way. 

I’ve always had a sixth sense—I like to call it “intuition.”  It seems almost unfair for someone like me to develop yet another sharp sense when I have 20/20 vision. I can overhear practically every secret you sneakily whisper in your friend’s ear, and I can almost always accurately name the random scents lingering in the streets.  But it’s not unfair.  Actually, it’s only right.  What’s unfair is the fact that until today, I did not understand my intuition, that I was never able to explain or justify my suspicions of people and their intentions.  It’s unfair that for a period of time, I’ve allowed my desire to see the good in everyone eclipse these intense inclinations that I was having.

Now what’s really unfair is that I feel like I have to defend myself; it’s why I acquired this sense to begin with.  Like a deer whose eyes are set on the sides of her head, it’s only fair that I see more than you do. You, whose binocular vision allows you to focus in on my every cell and dissect my every organ, to you, I’m prey.  And so I pray that this sixth sense, this intuition can reveal to me your evil drive, just to keep me alive.  But like a deer in headlights, there are times when I didn’t want to see your truck driving 70 miles per hour straight at me.  I wanted to believe that we could stay on this same road forever and that you’d never, never end me.  So for a while I froze.  Teeth shattering, shivering because I refuse to move; I’d rather freeze than believe that you could be that cold.  And so for a while I just froze.  Like a deer in headlights, I froze.

I’ve always had a sixth sense—I like to call it “intuition.”  It’s fair because with this sense, I don’t just see you look at me.  I watch you glaring at my dark skin, my thick hair.  It’s fair because I don’t just hear you utter my name, I listen to how your voice loathingly chokes on each syllable, how confidently you seem to mispronounce my last name, as if you own it, as if it has some sort of obscene suggestion that I should be ashamed of.  Well shame on you because you reek.  Can I name this odor?  Oh yes, it smells like hatred. I gag—disgusted I am at the slightest whiff of their ignorance.

Today, I understand my intuition.  When they’re close enough to finally blind me completely, I see the light.  Once frozen, now I’m melting—they can’t break me I am liquid.  Petal to the metal now; “they love me not.”  As the petal makes it’s way to the ground, full throttle, they run right through me but now I’m gas—I rise up.  I’m suddenly everywhere and everything is clearer than ever.  It’s not them whom I trust, so blinded they slip and they crash.  They won’t leave me frozen ever again.  Today, I trust my sixth sense—my intuition.  It’s only fair!

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