That Time Someone On Facebook Told Me Go Somewhere Else With My “Muslim Sh-t, We Don’t Need Your 1st Generation Junk”
By Ruka Osoba
“Better go some damn where else to film your muslim sh-t, we don’t need your 1st generation junk.”
This was the message I received on a post on the Facebook page of my upcoming web series following the lives of four women, three of which are first-generation Americans. I would love to tell you that I wasn’t shocked; that I expected this level of hatred and ignorance towards people that an entire country of politicians has resigned itself to discuss as a series of talking points while politically jockeying with the concept of “what” an immigrant or Muslim is. The truth is, I wasn’t surprised,but I was angry and left dumbfounded at how someone could be so diametrically opposed to a story that is so American in and of itself.
The fabric of America and the American identity has morphed continuously throughout history; stretching from the mass immigration of east and west Europeans at the turn of the nineteenth century, to the mass influx of immigrants from Asia during the mid 1800s, to Reagan-era policy in the 1980s that allowed amnesty for millions of undocumented immigrants, and now, to the dominating issue of immigration of our Latin American neighbors. So how is it that a concept so incredibly American has become the dirty topic that causes such division? Add to this conversation, an explosive and very divided America on the issue of resettlement of Syrian refugee’s and refugee status in general, and its’ easy to see why a series that explores the identity of four women from different backgrounds, looking to find their identity in an America that seems determined to define their identities, would scare people.
To humanize and understand the complexities of individuals that do not exist within your social circles, within your community, your schools, and your life would mean having to confront the inhumanity of blind ignorance and the marginalization of groups and people foreign to you. It means to question the fear you were raised with, live within, and perpetuate as hatred toward people you know nothing about. In the culture we live in, its easy to view communities — whether Muslim, Black, Hispanic, or immigrant — as nightly news topics whose lives become obsolete at the end of the hour, but many of these groups aren’t afforded the opportunity to “turn of the television” or the hate.
By the way, in the post on my webseries, there was no mention of Muslims, simply a request to interview first-generation Americans about their experiences living in two Americas. Aparently the commenter, lets just call him Jim for the sake of ease, did not understand the concept. Jim, no doubt fueled by political soapboxes like that of Donald Trump, immediately took to denounce Muslims as foreign, as not a part of America. History always finds a way to repeat itself. Black Africans that were brought to the United States, who are embedded in the very fabric of this country were denied their American identity. Japanese Americans were denied their American identity at the height of WWII, and now we’re seeing the same disturbing ideology re-emerge with immigrants, Muslims, and whomever else is deemed “foreign.” The question then becomes: “who is considered American enough, and who defines it?”
The idea behind my web series, “Nation of Somewhere” is to explore the root of identity. Of how we identify ourselves in a country that is supposed to be an amalgamation of rich and diverse cultures. These four female characters live in a complex world that works overtime to “grade” their level of “Americanism,” all the while trying to determine where they fit within their own ethnic identity and culture. As a first-generation American growing up, I felt like I was living with multiple identities; I had to figure out whether I was going to be Nigerian-American today, if I was going to be lumped into the Pangea of being Black in America tomorrow, or if I was going to fade into the background and be seen as independent of both. Like the women in Nation, for myself and many of my friends, to be seen as “other” is to have your loyalty to, inclusiveness in, and acceptance of America questioned. It’s having to explain to commenters like Jim that they do not get to define our place in America simply because of who was allowed to define it in the past. It’s having to, time and time again, recommit ourselves to a land that doesn’t truly want us committed anyway.
Our country is a continuously growing landscape rich with different cultures, heritages and ethnic groups that are re-defining, reinventing, and enriching this place we all call home and in that, we as a nation, should take pride that even now, as it’s been throughout history, we are and always will be a nation of