The question “Where are you from?” to Palestinians is an odd one. Sometimes it marks the beginning of the happiest part of our day – an opportunity to share a little about who we are, what we live for, and how different we are from what is written about is in the paper. Other times, it reminds us of how much work there is to do. You can be Jamaican, Thai, Venezuelan, Irish, Congolese, or Israeli and expect to have an enriching conversation with coworkers, new friends, and even interviewers. We Palestinians, however, run the risk of isolating ourselves, of closing doors and casting ourselves aside. We are asked and expected to condemn Palestinian leadership, to set aside decades of history and to conform to popular orientalist beliefs, to pledge our allegiance to the American flag once more. We are encouraged to “be from somewhere – anywhere – else” if we want that job or that law school acceptance or that recommendation letter.
We are better liked silent, so it is up to us to change that. Excel at what you do, don’t let the intimidation ever compromise your rationality, be proud of who you are, and represent your people well, because one day, our daughters and our sons will be asked where they are from.
“I am Palestinian. My family is from Palestine. I’d love to tell you how beautiful our land is, how strong our people are, and how rich our culture is.”