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The jobless activist?
by Lexi Zeidan
August 27th, 2014 (No comments)
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I’d like to believe I’m your typical activist. I feel some type of way about a certain issue, and, of course, I voice my opinion about how I feel, take part in protests that fight to achieve a certain end, and constantly push for change in our system for the benefit of those people who are not treated equally here in America. But for some activists, depending on what cause you’re speaking out for, a certain dark cloud follows you everywhere you go. It’s a cloud that rains on our parade when we want to join in the fight of allowing our voices to be heard. A cloud that oddly forces us to be silent for the very reason we want to speak up.

For those that don’t know me, I’m constantly speaking out for the injustices that plague the people of Palestine every single day. And in that same breath, I’m arguing against those ignorant individuals who tell my friends and I to go back to our “homeland,” while, ironically, this land was never theirs to begin with. It was the Europeans who colonized this country and ethnically cleansed the Native Americans the same way Palestinians are being ethnically cleansed in Palestine. Alongside these fights, I choose to stand in solidarity with the Black community who rebuilt this country, under the enslavement of the colonizers, with their bare hands, yet they are denied every single right that is given on silver platters to their white counterparts. And for those that know me, they can attest to the fact that my loudest voice can be heard around education reform, working to close the gap and fight against the bigotry that plagues students in low-income communities.

And so you can guess, as a Palestinian American living in America, I’m an activist that has heavy storm clouds bearing a heavy weight on my shoulder and smothering that light in my voice that gives me sunshine on a dark rainy day. A voice that has taken years to build up and speak out against injustices that face my community and communities alike. A voice that is sadly silenced by friends and family in that same community for fear of what affects my political views may have on my future.

I’ve heard it over and over again. "You need to watch what you say on social media; your employers are watching you." “Lexi I’m not going to tell you again, watch what you post and what you write about, you never know how its going to affect you.”

Maybe I should make one thing clear- I’m not anti-Semitic and I’m not racist. First and foremost, racism is an institution. In summary, it is systems of oppression that are set in place, particularly in our laws, educational systems and certain communities to keep certain races from advancing.

Now that we have that cleared up, I will say that I do have strong feelings towards the inhumane Zionist movement that exists, not only in the state of Israel but across this world. And I wholeheartedly disagree with the injustices that plague the Black communities here in America.

But my biggest disagreement falls in the form of heavy raindrops with that dark cloud that follows me everywhere when people tell me to silence my voice for the sake of my future.  How can the caring of young children whose lives are stripped from them due to brutal acts of murder and racism put my potential future at risk? Since when did caring for other young individuals who are victims of violence due to an idea of ethnic cleansing become a view to disagree with? I care about these issues because every human life matters. Regardless of your skin color - Black, Brown, or White - no value should be placed on individuals to justify the killing or ethnic cleansing of a race.

There’s a narrative that exists in this country that more often than not condemns our Black and Brown bodies and heightens our White counterparts. When you hear the case of Mike Brown or the stories about Israel bombing Gaza and the West Bank, it all of a sudden becomes a case of “a right to defend themselves.” Where was Mike Brown’s right to defend himself? Where is Palestine’s right to defend itself? And here I am being told that I need to silence this narrative in order to survive in MY America, “the land of the free.” Where’s my freedom in that?

I don’t fear speaking up for my own community or standing in solidarity with another, because if I did, I would fall victim to the racism that inflicts our country every single day. While our Black and Brown bodies stick out like a needle in the haystack, I’ve come to find my voice be quite the opposite. I have come to find my solidarity with Ferguson and the voice for my community become the needle I need hidden deep within that same haystack to provide the cure for the racism that ills my community and other communities alike every single day.

My views should not denounce my ability in the work place. My Facebook posts, political views, or better yet, the color of my skin, should not be the telling source of my value in this country or the work force. What people do not realize is that people like, an Arab Christian whose closest friends happen to be Black and Arab Muslims, can be the change agents and the pivotal points of activism and change in this country. They are the definition of hard work, of understanding the struggle and still making it in this country. They are exemplar models of what our universities and our companies should be looking for in individuals.

And so to my future employers, soon-to-be friends and even family members who constantly remind me that I need to watch what I say: I choose and will continue to speak up for Ferguson the same way I will always speak up for Palestine because no boy or girl is less than another. But I hope to leave those who encounter me or any of my views in the future with this. Just take these war-torn shoes that we all wear and try to fit yourselves into them for a day, as hard as that may be. Imagine the roles were reversed, and because the White skin of your sons and daughters is devalued, they could be killed at any given moment. Would you not want someone in this world to speak up for them, too?

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* Lexi Zeidan is a Palestinian Jordanian American and a graduate of Michigan State University. She has also participated in Teach for America.

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