When people hear the United States of America, they usually think about freedom. However, I feel like “freedom” in the U.S. is overstated. Americans may have more rights than people in other countries, but do we really have as much as some say?
I thought America symbolized a country of rights, freedom and opportunities. I thought America was a country like no other; a powerful country, full of wonderful people who came from many different countries around the world. I thought of myself as an American even though last year, when I first arrived, I didn’t even know how to ask, “how are you?”
Something happened to make me change my thinking about America. It was last year at JFK airport in New York, the first time I stepped foot on U.S. territory. I felt very joyous because I thought I was free! My uncle picked me up from the airport since I came by myself because my father could not come with me.
Before we got out of the airport, I saw something that wasn't fair: a man tried to pull off the hijab of a Muslim woman in front of me. I stood there in shock. He was yelling at her like she was inferior, “Pull off that thing, you are free here, in a free country, so why keep covering yourself?”
He kept talking, “If you want to do that go back to your f>>king country!” The woman started to cry. She was terrorized and responded with more tears. Crying, she exclaimed, “Leave me alone! I’ve done nothing to you!”
After I observed this horrible scene, I was completely devastated because this man attacked an innocent woman. Never shall I forget the face of this woman, never shall I forget the fact that I saw an injustice and did nothing.
My uncle, who was with me while that horrific situation happened, didn’t feel good either. He told me, “Abou, you thought everything was positive in the United States, right? I have spent eight years in this country and see those situations every day!” This surprised me.
He continued, “Anyway, now you can see with your own eyes! This is a part of the reality of the United States.” When he was done talking I just shook my head. Can you imagine the feeling of seeing an injustice in front of you, and you did nothing? It's painful, it makes your heart cold, in fear of yourself.
Even though America has a lot of faults, it can positively impact the life of many people, as it did my own. Without America, I could not have learned English, learned to be be more mature, or met new people like my ESL teacher, Miss Assiraj, who always pushes me forward.
America has really impacted my education and my life in a good way. There is so much I can accomplish today. I talk without stress or fear. I can make a speech in public.
Now that I’m a part of the United States, my responsibility is to stand up against injustice.