The other day my cousin who lives in Chicago sent me a message telling me about her recent visit to Florida. She’s been living in the States for 6 years and there were only few occasions where she mentioned having racially charged encounters. But in her recent messages she said there were too many racists in Florida and that people in Chicago were much more friendly and educated.
My cousin wears a head scarf (commonly known as Hijab, a word I don’t really like for linguistic reasons), other than that nobody would know she’s an Arab or a Muslim. And that got me thinking that, if I were her, would I stop wearing a headscarf, which is part of the dress code in Islam as far as I believe – and I’m not here to discuss this issue- so would I take it off just so I wouldn’t look different and so that people will leave me alone and mind their own business?
Theoretically at least, my answer would be No. Simply because you can’t stop doing what you believe to be right in order to tolerate other people’s ignorance. The bigotry and resentment they harbor is their problem, not mine. Why do I accept having people from all around the world in my country wearing whatever they want, and I deal with them with friendliness? It’s the same thing.
Another important point is that to change the way you dress just for the sake of not having to be different would be hypocrisy on my part, as a person who constantly defies social standards and criticizes norms and traditions. If you dare to be different inside your society, you shouldn’t shy away from it when you’re outside of your comfort zone.
And this goes for anything really. Anytime you feel like you’re giving something up for the sake of being accepted by people who are just too narrow minded to accept you as the person you are as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, then think again.
Anyway, my advice to her was that whenever she faces one of these bigots, just smile at them, it’s a like a message that says: “I feel sorry for you, and I hope that one day you will be able to see the human beings behind those clothes or that skin color that obstructs your vision”