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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Day 12: Refocused Attention on Racism in the US


I am currently writing this on the plane from Doha, Qatar back to Dulles, VA.  My 10-day trip has felt more like a month-long trip, leaving me exhausted and overwhelmed.  I have grown incredibly attached to the people I met through this visit and it feels strange that they aren't accompanying me to Dubai.  Although we did so much this trip, I have yet to even mention 75% of it on this blog, and there are still aspects of Saudi society I know I haven't seen.  The visit lacked study of tribes, minorities, the poor, and the counter-cultures that are present in the KSA.  For this reason, I'm considering using my 90-day visa to return to the Kingdom for some follow-up research.  This is something I'll decide on later though because I might find that Dubai holds even more mysteries than Saudi Arabia.
Our final meal in Saudi Arabia, served at  Dr. Mody's house, traditional -style on the floor

Before leaving Dr. Mody's to pack and fly back home
I am anxious to return to Troy University and begin implementing my projects associated with my post-visit year-long fellowship.  I had my own ideas about how I could help Americans understand Arabs, specifically Saudis, but my course of action has changed slightly.  On our last night in Riyadh, we ate an amazing traditional dinner at the home of Dr. Mody, who we know from the Saudi Cultural Mission to the US in Virginia.  After dinner, she gave some insight into why Troy University was losing so many of its Saudi students.  The lack of a very challenging curriculum was one factor I expected, but she also said that some of our Saudi students experienced so much racism that they want to avoid the South all together.  This really scared be because I thought that our international students were better protected from the harsh, often racist, views I've become familiar with.  I am embarrassed by my culture and my school.  In order to try and combat this, I may host a workshop for incoming Arabs on dealing with racism and ignorance.  Our Saudis are proud of their beliefs, but likely have had few reasons to defend them in the fact of opposition before coming to Alabama.  I would need extra help reaching out to Saudi women in Troy, who stand out so harshly in abayas and niqabs in the Bible Belt of the US.  I also want to bring in other Arab students who have successfully adjusted to life at Troy without abandoning their own cultures.  I don't really have experience in dealing with racism.  It's definitely present in my area, particularly where I went to middle school; I also have felt sexism since coming to Alabama, but I have never been mistreated in public places like grocery stores or school offices because of my heritage, and I'll have to work to remain realistic when trying to combat racism from the side of the victim.

Of course, I also want to work with Americans, since it is not the fault of the Arab students that they are met with hate.  This might include talks with church groups, joint events with my school's Saudi Student Association, and maybe even some beginner Arabic lessons I could start off.

I don't think that my enthusiasm for these projects will wain because it attacks a problem that I've been witnessing for years; it is also obviously significant to the NCUSAR and Saudi government, or they wouldn't have invested so much into our trip.

I have more to write about my experiences in Saudi Arabia, but I just wanted to give you an idea of the bigger picture of the visit as this fantastic trip concludes.

1 comment:

  1. It's very easy to become jaded and unaware of such a problem until it's pointed out again. Thank you for this post and this blog.

    ReplyDelete

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Troy, AL, United States
I am a Political Science student at Troy University in southeastern Alabama. I have been given fantastic opportunities to travel to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, among other brief trips, to study and glimpse other cultures. I believe there is much to be learned about other people while studying, and I want to share my experiences with you.