The watch list

I remember a time when I was searching for a new apartment. One of my closest guy friends, at the time, was accompanying me on this hunt.

He questioned why I needed a secure building to live in. I had explained to him that I didn’t want to deal with stalkers or rapists following me – a secure building meant cameras and tenant-only access.

His face seemed alarmed and then he responded with: “I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman, because I wouldn’t have thought of those things as a man.”

Personally, at the time, I didn’t quite yet realize how different this world worked for the opposite sex.

The truth of the matter is, that the world works differently for every type of person.

Man, woman, black, white, gay, straight, etc.

So, when I agreed to make a stop in North Carolina to drop off my boyfriend’s relatives clothing items (for college at Duke) — I agreed, on the terms that we’d be in and out.

Look, I don’t sit well with southern states. It’s the only time I’m proud to be a liberal from the coastal states.

It should’ve been no surprise that the boyfriend and I were pulled aside to be questioned.

We were bamboozled. The agents outnumbered us and asked us questions in circles.

We were separated – and immediately they began to ask me questions about being from Iraq.

“We noticed that you’re from Iraq. What made you decide to come to this country?”

Mind you, I was flying from NY to NC – a domestic flight.

My response: “my house was bombed during the war – I gained political asylum.”

The agent apologized on behalf of Americans – as if I wasn’t a citizen myself.

They’d questioned us – until they figured out their racial profiling didn’t work out so well.

Towards the end, my boyfriend got gutsy and asked if they were being racist. One of the agents began to spew out hate:

“It’s your people – that’s why you’re on our list.”

“My people?”

The man turned red and began to spit when he spoke. Between shaming me and being utterly racist. He had let me know that the US govt was watching me because of “my people.”

I wish I had recorded this conversation – it would’ve made a hit on YouTube with all of the other racist cop videos.

It’s just like, admit it, you know I’m not on a list. I’m clean. You know it — why get so nasty? So, I can get angry and you can throw me in jail? I guess, that way, they’d feel like they didn’t waste their time frisking two innocent people.

It comes with the territory. I was born middle eastern in a time where certain people seem to hate us – a lot.

For years, I felt like I was trying to convince people that racism was real. And for so long I was told I was dramatic.

I even was told that I couldn’t have dealt with racism since I was “pretty.”

People forget that my name isn’t Ashley Johnson, and I wasn’t born and raised in Kentucky.

Anyway – in the moment of the cops trying to psychologically break me down – I stayed calm.

“Officer, I understand what you’re saying but you don’t have to refer to “my people” –that’s unkind.

I turned around and walked away. Sure, I was angry — but I was also utterly confused: what did I even do to be spoken to like that?

At the end of the day. I don’t know what happened. Maybe the DEA really made the mistake of flagging the wrong person – or – maybe, they just hate immigrants.

Or, both.

This church is really the only place I went to before heading back to the airport.

It’s kind of pointless to let it get to me.

It just becomes one of those things, you know, like having to choose a secure apartment when you’re a woman living alone.

I just have to accept that these days we are still living in a time of ignorance, mass corruption and war fueled by greed.

We have to watch out and remember that privilege is based on class, skin tone and gender.

I can fight the fight on Facebook all day long — but what does that stir up? More of an indication to my peers that the world is fucked? There isn’t much hope?

No, I’m going to do something better for myself. And if I’m really on this watch list, I’m throwing on a show.

First class, brown girl and I’m definitely paying my taxes so that the DEA can wear better outfits next time. Watch me.

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