I've spent most of today sitting in airports - Marrakesh Menara Airport, Casablanca's Mohammed V International Airport, Abidjan's Port Bouet Airport - ruminating on shame, privilege, and alien statuses.
My mom and I traveled to Morocco this weekend. We visited Marrakech's palaces, tombs, mosques, Hammam baths, souks; we savored the food, landscapes, languages, and culture; we made new memories and friendships. It was wonderful. From the moment we arrived, we were made to feel welcome.
In Côte d'Ivoire, it's been the same. I've been allowed to feel at ease in a country that is not my own, participate in their culture, and ingratiate myself into new communities. Though my religious, political, and social views are different than many Ivoirians, though my native language is different, though the color of my skin is different, I have been allowed to live in Abidjan. My family has been allowed to visit me. I feel at home.
I'm often referred to as an ex-pat (a term conveniently reserved for *westerners* living abroad), but I'm an ALIEN who is lucky enough to have my travels fueled by passion instead of persecution and to experience hospitality instead of hostility upon my arrival. It truly breaks my heart, therefore, to know that the hospitality, kindness, and openness I've received, in Morocco and in Côte d'Ivoire, wouldn't be extended to a lot of my new friends and family if they were to travel to my own home country, simply because they're Muslim. Or black. Or brown. Or just too damn different in all of the meaningless yet consequential ways.
I braced myself for a lot of adjustments when I left for The Fulbright Program 5 months ago and took on my own alien status. I was ready for the turbulence that my own journey might bring. By far, however, the most difficult aspect of being abroad has been the shame I feel for my country's ignorance and prejudice. For the hatred and fear and cowardice that my country is showing towards people who have only ever shown me love.
Grateful for my homes away from home, committed to making mine more accessible, and standing in solidarity with protesters and aliens alike at airports around the world.
#NoMuslimBan #LetUsThenSeeWhatLoveCanDo 💗 #WeAreMoreAlikeMyFriendsThanWeAreUnalike