An Open Letter to My Community
Many of you know me…
Many more of you know my parents…
My family has lived in Oklahoma for over a decade, and I’ve grown up surrounded by its Pakistani community that has witnessed every milestone in my life so far. I feel like a daughter of this community, a product of the efforts put towards ensuring my generation is successful personally, professionally, and spiritually.
We’re all one big family, dedicated to looking out for each other and offering a helping hand when times get tough. Aunties supplying food and babysitting while uncles drive kids around when parents are out of town make up my earliest memories. The warmth of the Oklahoman Pakistani community looking out for their own is something I can always rely on.
But right now, if we continue to only look out for our own, the future will become very, very difficult.
A Difficult Conversation to Have
This is a difficult conversation to have; however, I must ask some questions of my elders whom I love and respect dearly.
We live in changing times. Every day, the world feels a little less safe. Hateful rhetoric bombards us on a daily basis. Fear consumes us when it appears that even simple day-to-day activities can be rife with danger. It’s difficult to operate normally under such circumstances.
My question is, why are we not doing more to combat this?
Why is it that, as a community, we prefer to stay idle in our houses and social gatherings rather than to stand up and start a discussion on our rights?
Why is it that we do not concentrate more effort into showing our children that we are American through and through, and there is nothing that can or ever will change that fact?
Why is it that, despite this community having been settled in Oklahoma for decades, we balk at the thought of going out and mingling with people who are not from among our own ethnic group?
Why have we trapped ourselves in a bubble that could be to our own detriment?
Our lives are threatened, our religion’s name has been tarnished, our outward appearance makes us a target. Yet we attempt to drown out our sorrows and fears by throwing party after party. How is this beneficial in any way? All we are doing is secluding ourselves among whom we feel most comfortable with, spending hours upon hours talking about politics yet refusing to take any action. Being comfortable is not wrong. It is when we stay in our comfort zones that the real damage occurs.
Hope for the Future
Allow me to share these words from World War 2 survivor, Martin Niemoller:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
By staying in our bubbles, our community is risking the bright future for our children that you, our elders, sacrificed so much for. Too few of us are working on building coalitions with people who are different from us. We need to cement ourselves in our surroundings, and the best way to do that is to reach out and build bridges between different communities. We must ensure that one group is not unjustly singled out and attacked by bigoted forces in this nation. We all need allies in such hateful times – and we have to take action to work together right now, before there is no one else left to speak for us.
Our country is now forced to succumb to the whims of an egomaniac that some of us call President. No one knows what tomorrow will bring. But this is a message of hope, from a bright-eyed college freshman who believes in her community’s ability to rouse themselves up and become a force dedicated to protecting all of humanity.
This is a hope for the future, from a daughter of the community who believes in her country’s ability to pick itself up and put itself back together after tough times. All we need is a little faith, trust, and pixie dust.