|September 11th: Celebrate Diversity
This poem was written by an Arab-American child. Unfortunately, when a tragic event like September 11th happens, people often direct their pain and anger at others who had nothing to do with what happened. Because the terrorists were Muslims, some folks might think that everyone of that particular faith must be just like the terrorists. As a result, many Muslim and/or Arab-Americans, including children and teens, have been victims of violence and bullying since the attacks. Remember, people who practice the same religion or share the same skin color are still individuals just like yourself.
Different, But the Same
That's what Sara, 12, found. While she never knew anyone who was Latina before, Sara decided to get to know the new girl in her class. "It turns out we both love Harry Potter books," says Sara. "When the new book comes out, we're going to get together and have discussions on each chapter."
When 12-year-old Inshirah was teased about her religion at school, she used the experience to become more open to people of other races. "I felt bad because the kids were mean and stuff. They said, 'Oh, you're Muslim. You shouldn't be in public school,'" she remembers. While most of her friends share her religion, Inshirah decided she didn't want to be like the kids who taunted her, so she made it a point to get to know people with different backgrounds. "At my new school I have white, Puerto Rican, Mexican, and Chinese and African-American friends," she says.
This is a great time to take note of the similarities and differences between the people around you. Learn about your friends and peers. Figure out how you're alike and how you're unique; for instance, you may have different color skin, but you both love tennis, or you may practice different religions, but you both love the same movies.
Get The Big Picture
The historical and political events behind terrorism and September 11th are pretty complicated, but it's helpful to learn the basics of who, what, where, and when. It might help you understand not only why all this is happening, but also why people from other countries might want to seek a new life in the U.S., and why there might be differences among people who share the same religion or country of origin.
If it's too confusing on your own, ask a parent or teacher to help you explore the history of and current situations in the Middle East.
Teach Your Grown-Ups Well
Dealing With Bullies
When David, 10, noticed some kids picking on an Arab-American boy at school, he gave them a piece of his mind. "I went over to the bullies and said, 'He's no different than you or me,' and they walked away." Even if you haven't been exposed to this situation, it doesn't hurt to be prepared. Rachel, 11, has a plan in mind: "I would tell a bully that people shouldn't make judgments so quickly based only on how someone looks, without really knowing them. I would also tell the child who was teased that they shouldn't just let the people bullying them get away with it, and maybe they should talk to a teacher to make them do something about the problem." If the bullying doesn't stop, it's time to call for backup. This means tell your teacher, your parents, or another trusted adult about the situation and get help.
Below is another poem written by an Arab-American boy.