Throughout 5 years of my life as a med student, 4 years of them consisted of my staying on-campus rather than off-campus.
During my 4th year, one of my housemates was a very attractive Zimbabwean girl. She looked just like any other Zimbabwean girl; dark skinned with startlingly white perfect row of teeth and a very engaging smile.
We did not have much in common except for one thing; both of us were used to being stared at for being different. I was stared at because I wore the hijab in a society where they dress to reveal. She was stared at simply because of her different skin tone..a black.
One day we were both in the Edwards Hall kitchen, and feeling too awkward to be in the same space without AT LEAST making some small talk (I hate small talk because I am very bad at it), we talked about how it felt to be different from the society.
We talked about how we got stared at a lot and sometimes wished these white people would stop staring. I could feel eyes of the passersby boring into my bones as I crossed the street. Let’s not even get into the shouting “Hey towel head.” (Patutkah tudung aku yang cun dan penuh manik ni disamakan dengan tuala? Iys, tak patut!).
Then we jokingly said, “Next time we get stared at, let’s just pretend they are staring at our excessive beauty. Hahah.”
Then she told me about the story of her nephew. Her nephew had just started school at that time. Still a kid, who is not supposed to be initiated to cruelty and racism. But in Australia, there are certain things that you cannot escape.
You don’t get much staring in the street of Sydney and Melbourne; a more urban area in which globalization is kicking and thriving. But the more rural you get, the more anglo-saxon it becomes and they are not used to foreigners.
Now, back to her nephew. Her nephew is a very cute little boy. Dark skinned, big round eyes, short curly hair and in possession of such engaging contagious smile. In short, he is adorable. Utterly so!
But at school, people don’t notice that big round eyes that can melt the heart. They don’t notice the strong white teeth that so characterizes the African people. All they see is the skin color.
Which is such a shame!
The white kids at school do not befriend her nephew much. They thought all the darkness in that skin is DIRT!
Can you imagine?
And then she told me how sad her nephew was at first. But one day, her nephew got into a fight with a white kid… and then they somehow became the best of friends.
Ah, dear readers, that is just the sort of story that I love.
So, I decided to write a story just like that. I sat down one day and wrote and wrote and wrote. I wanted to show that short story to my housemate but I never got around to doing it. I named that story; The Boy Covered In Soot.
Tonight, as I was cleaning up my files, I came across that story that I wrote a few years ago. I decided to share the story H.E.R.E…maybe one day my housemate will stumble across my blog and I can finally let her know how much the story of her nephew inspired me.
I told my housemate that the first Muadzin (the caller to prayer) in Islam is a black man named Bilal Bin Rabah. Just to let her know that as far as I am concerned, no true Muslim can ever justify RACISM. She was suitably impressed. “Come to a Muslim country, there will be no staring. Any staring done must REALLY be because of your beauty and you will not have to wonder why.”
Don’t make a liar out of me, please. Stop staring and treat foreigners respectfully. We are all human beings.