By Ahmed Abukwaik|| Contributing Writer
My name is Ahmed Abukwaik. I am a Palestinian-Pakastani Muslim, and I was recruited here to play the sport I love. I had to quit because I couldn’t stand being insulted. During a practice, I was hit in the nuts and fell to my knees when MY OWN teammate came next to me and used Arabic/Islamic phrases to mock the sajud position (when you’re on your knees to pray). For the first three weeks of pre-season, a teammate said “Allhuakbar” along with a bomb exploding motion whenever he saw me. I had my legs kicked out from under me during a practice, and once I was kicked down, I refused to shake a teammates hand. What was I told? – that I, the victim of a physical assault from my teammate, possess bad character. All of this done by white students. When I expressed to the coach that I felt like an outsider on the team, because of my race and faith, I was dismissed. I was told it had to be something else and that, “you are a sensitive guy”. That’s only a taste of how I’ve been treated on campus as a minority student. None of the incidents I encountered were cultural appropriation; the way I faced racism on campus is another form and different from what someone who is Mexican or Chinese faced this past weekend. However, most people who face racism know what it’s like to be dismissed. I know I do. My only solution was to quit the team and stop doing what I came here to do.
The response to the complaints that were brought up as a result of cultural appropriation enacted by the five athletes this past Halloween weekend sounded all too familiar for me. Let’s make a list: Lack of POC faculty – check! Administration not caring about students – check! Changing who we are because of where we are – check! Last year I wouldn’t grow my beard out, out of fear people would associate me with terrorist groups in the Middle East. Oh, and my name? I’ve had two people say my name correctly on campus.
There was a point during the town hall meeting when one student noticed that the direction of the comments were getting further away from the boys who were responsible for causing it. There is a reason for that: these boys are not the entire issue. The students involved in the incident brought to light that our administration is a major facilitator in how the student dynamics on campus go. The college administration controls student admissions, resource distribution, and more. The students involved are simply a reflection of our campus community, and society at large.
Does that mean we have to defame the school at an open house? For a temporary high, feeling like we’ve won something? If we don’t like something, we need to take impactful actions that better the place we are in. A student who works for admissions mentioned that we should be willing to risk what we have for our own betterment. I agree. He mentioned shedding light on the realities of the campus to visiting students. I agree. But imagine showing that there are problems, and WE are addressing them IN A POSITIVE way. Showing them that this is a place where a minority can come and make a change.That could be one of the most inspirational things we can do.
At the town hall, I used the word “cancel.”I said we should not “cancel” them. I meant, that canceling the perpetrators won’t solve issues that we and the future generations of minorities will face. There are instances where people should be canceled, but this is not one. These are the kinds of people that put me through hell, and I would still argue that they are not the ones to be canceled. I would say that by canceling them we have won a battle but lost the war. Our anger SHOULD NOT and CANNOT be contained. My comments were not an attempt to dowse it. I’m arguing that we should aim our anger somewhere that will make a change for the long run along with the students being held accountable. Nothing wrong with winning the battle and the war.
This incident makes me think of how I.M.P.A.C.T was formed. This year, when Joaquim Hamilton came in, he was shocked by the sheer numbers of minorities. He said himself that he never believed that what happened to him and the small actions he took then, would lead to an amazing brotherhood like I.M.P.A.C.T. I believe there is a better way to use the energy and noise we created in response to this past weekend to make an everlasting IMPACT the same way Joaquim Hamilton did.
I’ll conclude with this: it’s not that these students should be exempted from deserving consequences. They SHOULD 100% be held accountable for their actions. A student from the BSU did an incredible job in explaining how even with the very little amount of resources allocated to minority organizations, they do such an AMAZING job in giving students the opportunity to be educated on the cultures they decide to ignorantly and disgustingly appropriate for a party. My point is that this community is strong and we can demonstrate that by demanding the administration reprimand the students and implement policies to hold future students accountable. We can grow as a community through multiple steps and actions. There isn’t ONE way, but I truly believe this is a perspective we should incorporate in our conversations with hopes to make a difference that lasts past our years here at F&M.
Sophomore Ahmed Abukwaik is a contributing writer. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org