What Does It Mean To Be Yemeni At School? Getting Closer to Answers

(A guest post from Edrees Saied a recent graduate from Oakland Tech and one of Oakland’s Energy Convertors)

What does it mean to be Yemeni at school?

Who knows?

But I’m finding communities that are helping me figure that out. After participating in the event, “Yemen: Global to Local to Household,” I got closer to learning how to take pride in being Yemeni.

Yet, it feels like I’ve lived in the smallest margin there is.

I’ve been the only Arabian American in any of my classes since I’ve been in school. I’m trying to be the one in my family who actually makes it out the mud.

You know. Builds a career. Finishes school.

With me trying to represent Yemeni leadership, not once has the Yemeni community ever been represented at my school. Everytime the Middle East is even mentioned, it always involves war and terror. Sometimes I’d just ask what there is left to appreciate about being Yemeni, or even Arabian American for that matter.

No Box That Fits

“I’ve been told that I am African American, White, and Asian”

I never had the opportunity to select an option that says ‘Arabian American’ or just ‘Arabian.’ I could click ‘other’ and fill it out. But, even in doing so, I feel like an alien to society. I used to wonder if a Yemeni community even exists in society.

I’ve been told that I am African American, White, and Asian. So that’s what I put in surveys or other applications.

As a result, I managed to connect with the African American community more than I ever imagined. I grew up in it. I take pride in being a part of such a community.

Despite that, it’s my responsibility to be aware of my true roots.

Searching For An Identity At School, “Walking out of the Cave”

It gets more confusing when each History class I take teaches me that I belong to a different ethnic group. What it meant to be Yemeni got blurry. I was alienated from traditions the rest of my family grew up with. Even if I was attaching myself to the communities around me, it felt like I had no identity.

Even with all this happening, I attended the event I mentioned earlier ‘Yemen: Global to Local to Household,’ as stated earlier.  The event was entirely designated to discuss the Yemeni community. Being on the student panel, I united with people that were also Yemeni to speak about our struggles. The identity that was suppressed all these years became a little more clear.

It is the fact that we showed up to speak up for ourselves that made me feel like I was walking out of cave.

The Schools We Need

School should be a place that helps you understand where you came from, and how those origins influence your identity. Although it is up to individual to create his or her (or their) identity, school should make sure that you have the foundations on which you base your identity.

A classroom shouldn’t just be filled with curriculum that you cannot relate to. Whether it be through programs, events, organizations or curriculum, school must give unrepresented students the opportunity to represent.




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