I’m terrified of what happens next.

I still can’t forget the day after the towers came down, when President Bush called together a classroom of children to talk to them about what had happened. I remember how hard I looked for any child with skin like mine, for anybody who had a name like mine.


I’m nervous of how it’ll affect us.

I remember when I was 14 and the Danish cartoon riots happened. And how I was forced to choose between the two, to somehow be patriotic. I remember the conversation I had with a well meaning older museum volunteer who was taking me out to lunch, vegan food.

I hated vegan food after that. I didn’t understand why for years.


I’m scared of how our children will grow up.

I remember the way my soul felt paralyzed at seeing the initial flood of social media posts around the Boston Marathon bombing, how my obsession with following the apprehending of the Tsaernaev brothers threw me for three days of sleepless nights.


I’m afraid of who we’ll become.

I can’t unsee the way people stare at me, can’t forget the way children are pulled away from me if I look at them. I’m afraid of striking up conversations on the train, and perpetually wear my clunky headphones just so I can feel safe. My respite lies in playing stories and songs that fill me with courage, but it’s in the moments my headphones die or I stupidly take them off that I lose safety.


I’ve heard all that can be said.

I take another breath of stale air every time a bigot tweets me, exhausted by the CO2 that rushes towards me every time they think to educate me.

Do you not think I’ve heard that, or read that, or been told that in my twenty four years of existence? Must you educate me, like so many others have attempted to before?


I’m tired of staying quiet.

Last year I lived in a college town in New Jersey, diverse in population but not its taxi drivers. My well-meaning, Tea Party-adhering taxi driver would turn to me, exhausted from my trips out to see family, slumped and small in the backseat and say things like, “eh. Not that someone like you could be president, but if you were to run, that would be funny, huh.” I bit my tongue in front of him. My laugh weak in return, I would gather my courage the moment I left the car and his presence.


I’m done making excuses.

I’ve been pushed past the point of no return, kicking and screaming. It’s been years since my heart first was too mauled by misguided pity, and now every new attempt doesn’t even make me flinch. Every new attack of terror finds me gasping for breath, waiting for the first blow of phobia to come our way. So I’m done, done waiting for the blows, done waiting for the hatred.

My time as your personal dancing monkey has come to an end. You can find me refusing to abide by your microaggressions and making my own way, if only to show you that it can be done, even if I’m Muslim.

Especially since I’m Muslim.

  • Laila Alawa

    Laila Alawa is the CEO and Founder of The Tempest, a leading media company where the world goes to hear the stories of diverse millennial women. She is also the host for The Expose, a weekly podcast tackling tough topics with snark and wit. Her work has been mentioned in The Guardian, BuzzFeed, The Atlantic, Mashable, Color Lines, Bustle, Feministing, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe. She's also appeared on Al-Jazeera America, BBC World News, NPR, and Huffington Post Live.