For Crossing Identities I had the great possibility to interview Amin at New Roads School in Los Angeles! Amin loves skating and spends his free time with his friends from the skate park. The passion for skating is really what connects him and his friends strongly.
I observed throughout the interviews that what creates diversity most easily, are common values, no matter what background. If you find something that is important enough for humans, they come together to create a positive impact, no matter what skin color, nationality or religion they have. It doesn’t come with a surprise, that Amin’s friends are diverse. He not only skates with them, but enjoys spending Shabbat together with one of his best friends. What is most important to him and his friends is skating, and their lives evolve around that sport. In their free time they will travel up to two hours, to get to a great skating spot!
Amin is born in America and his parents are Indian-Egyptian who lived internationally. He is super-happy at the inclusive progressive New Roads School. Growing up, Amin always felt American, until recently. Since the recent change of government, he does not feel safe anymore on the streets, because he is muslim. Recently his older brother took Amin in the car to the supermarket. On their way the police stopped his brother for running a stop sign. It didn’t take long that Amin had to watch his brother being handcuffed and brought to the police station, as his first name was the same as a terrorist’s name. That is probably like a person called Bernie grows up in the middle east and gets arrested for having the first name like Bernie Madoff. Another time a teacher on the news had taught a song in elementary school which depicted muslims as bombers.
Hearing constantly anti-muslim sentiments makes Amin wonder, if he is welcomed or if people see him still as American. And maybe he is not American for the others? His parents and family are just like everyone else, they celebrate American holidays like Thanksgiving. Amin’s parents are role models for him. He admires the working ethics and perseverance of his mother. It seems as if he wants to show his loyalty to his parents , when he repeats, that he is muslim and proud of it. But there is nothing specific that identifies him as muslim to me. To me he is just a kid who likes to skate and wants to fit within a community, just like everyone else.
It is so easy to get caught up in the “we” and “them”, in a system that antagonizes us. We want to be safe and people want to know their children have a safe future. But we like things to be simple. However, with a bit of distance we can see the effect of antagonistic speech. There are the entitled ones opposite to the marginalized ones. And as we watch humans going off topic of what really creates a safe life and future, we realize we have to work more on ourselves think twice, thrice and once more again before we create more societal issues by implementing hate speech.
America and many other countries are immigration countries and only if we work on a common ground, common values we, as humans will succeed to live together. Diversity rocks!
Writer & Photographer Semra Sevin