The Thrill is proud to feature personal narratives courtesy of Project Open Voices, a coalition of students providing a platform for open dialogue on campus. Today’s essay is titled “Ninjas” and was authored anonymously. POV is always accepting new submissions, so if you want to share your story, email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to remain anonymous, you can submit by signing into a second email account: email@example.com (password: kenyoncollege). POV meets Saturdays at 4pm in the Bemis music room in Peirce; new faces are always welcome.
During class a student was describing her study abroad experience in a predominantly Muslim country: “The women would wear the niqab–the veil that conceals the face, body, and hair of a woman only revealing her eyes–and they all looked like ninjas or something walking around.” I was the only Muslim in the class and shocked that she would say something like that to receive a few laughs, with no response whatsoever from the professor. Would anyone ever compare someone wearing a yarmulke to a ninja or something similarly ridiculous? Or how about a nun? The comment bothered me so much because I’m Muslim-American and have grown accustomed to the Islamophobia and modern day Orientalism that makes me feel like a second class citizen in the country I was born in. Whether Pam Geller or Robert Spencer are painting Islam as an inherently violent religion, or there’s a news story about a mosque or temple that was attacked in a dangerous hate crime, I’m no longer surprised. Whether they call it Islamophobia, Death by Brown Skin, modern day Orientalism or any other term, I have accepted it as part of my reality in the U.S. What I have not and will not accept, however, is that I should be made to feel like an other because of my religion within a classroom at Kenyon College. If a student is misguided and misinformed in their comment, the professor should set an example and correct them. The classroom should be a safe space for all students and all identities. It should not perpetuate inequalities and prejudices rampant in the everyday world, and condone ignorant comments that make underrepresented students feel uncomfortable and unsafe in the classroom.
How can we assure this? Faculty must be trained. Whether it’s a consciousness raising workshop or whatever, they must be taught how to ensure that all students feel safe within the classroom, and that seemingly innocent statements don’t make anyone feel like an Other.