Slurpies and Stereotypes

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1“A boy threw a slurpie on me when I was in Texas.”

My mouth drops open in shock, “Why?!”

“Because I am from Morocco and I’m Muslim and he told me I was a bad person and he started talking about terrorism.”

“What did you say!”

“I told him I forgave him, and also the slurpie tasted delicious! But the hard part was, I was wearing a white t-shirt and I had to go to class so everyone asked me what happened and people found out what he did and why.”

My friend Souad tells me this story, a significant example of racism and discrimination that she experienced while attending Texas A&E for two years, just one instance that made her feel like she didn’t belong. Her tone of voice is very matter of fact. Her voice doesn’t carry hurt or anger, she just tells the story the way it happened. I wonder how many interactions like this she has had.

We are all familiar with the stereotypes held against Muslims and Islamic countries, especially those in the Middle East. These stereotypes are not only unfair, incomplete, narrow minded and unjust in their mere existence; but they are placed wrongly on the North African country of Morocco as well just because of the appearances of the people and their faith. I have never felt unsafe in Morocco, I have never seen or heard whisperings of terrorism; I have only been welcomed into homes with open arms and kisses on my cheeks, loved, served, cherished and celebrated solely because of my presence in a space.

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From Left to Right: Souad, myself, Molly

The first question I ask is, why? Why would someone do this? I know this girl fairly well after spending six days with her when she shares this story. She has given her time to show us around her city, she has given us the gift of henna- generously paying for ten of us to have our hands ornately decorated with the orange-brown henna mix done by a woman Souad hired herself, and she has invited us into her home on several different occasions. Now, we sit in my hotel room as she tells this story. She is about to take us to the hammam. She is giving her time, yet again, to help us experience Moroccan culture and helping us along the way. How could anyone throw a slurpie on this person?

“The first step toward reconciliation is sitting down, drinking coffee with someone and hearing their story because as soon as you listen to them and know them, you cannot objectify or judge them anymore.” I am struck by the applicability of this quote by my classmate, Hannah, in class. This is how we break down stereotypes.

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Saying Goodbye.

Because I have done this already with Souad, I can’t imagine how someone could judge her so harshly and be so cruel to her. I have to remind myself that they have not had the experience I have had. Like Hannah said, it is impossible to stereotype a person once you have taken the time to get to know them. The boy who threw the slurpie on her did not know her.

My biggest question moving forward is how do I help others, friends at home and family members understand what I have learned in my two weeks in Morocco? How do we break through these stereotypes to find the truth and bring understanding to others who haven’t made this crossing and found the understanding that we have?

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