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For the past six months, I have been applying to numerous internships and entry level positions. I am a university student, in my third year, studying Marketing and Business Management, and I have my Associates of Arts, plus over five years of customer service. Going back through my emails, I counted 22 places I had applied for, and did not even get a call back. I constantly was changing my resume, thinking that was the problem, but it really was not the case.
After the fourth rewrite, and it looked excellent, I decided to show my dad. (I had been working with friends, who have high positions in recognized companies.) My dad looks at resumes for work from time to time, because he a senior project manager at BNSF, so why not?
As he began reading it, he was commenting on how nicely organized I put everything. You could quickly read my education, experience, and what not. When he got to the bottom, looking at my volunteer work, he said, "That might be the problem here."
Two of my volunteer experiences had to do with the middle east. Specifically the Islamic Relief, which was a non-profit organization that sent care packages and food to Palestinians, who were being forcefully removed, and had their homes destroyed from warfare.
My father is a Palestinian Muslim. As an Arab-American, I have seen my father go through horrible things, just because of that simple face. So yeah, he may have a bias, but it is undeniable that muslims, and other arabs or those from the middle east are terrorized and harassed here in the states.
This may be a coincidence, but once I took off that volunteering, I got a call back. I was offered a job working for the city that I live in, for the Parks and Recreation department, a nice job. As if that was not enough, while getting ready for my interview, I felt like I had to take my necklace off. I actually felt very nervous thinking about whether or not to take it off, and that made me sad. I was so disappointed in the fact that shit is still happening.
My necklace—my favorite necklace—is a beautiful solid gold chain, with my name in Arabic, and next to it hanging says Allah (God), also in Arabic. It is incrusted with diamonds and is so detailed, it is gorgeous. I never take it off.
I decided to leave it, saying to myself that I should not care what other people think, that I should not even want to work with people that put me down for my background and religion, or make me feel un-welcomed or safe. Surely enough, I went downstairs and asked my parents if I looked okay. And the first thing my dad said, "Habibti (my love), you should take it off, or tuck it in for now."
Even though I went through the whole taking my volunteer work off my resume, it was that that had slapped me in the face. It felt like a huge blow. I am an Arab-American, I was born here. I lived here my whole life. Why am I being targeted? My dad lived in the states since he was 20 years old, he went to university here. We are citizens, the same as you, we deserve the same respect.
Anyhow, I went to the interview, necklace tucked in, and was sweating. I felt like I had a secret, or that I was under cover in a din of gangsters. (The people were very nice, don't worry.) After we said our hellos, I sat down and they offered me a drink and made some small talk, before the actual interrogation started. (Joke)
My last name is Elkassih. Pronounced, "El-Kah-Sea-ah". But since my dad moved to the states, he made a white version of it, "L-K-C" like just saying the actual letters so people could say it easier, and not tell right away that it is Arabic, super easy, right? The coordinator and the director both are sitting in front of me, and one asks how to pronounce my last name, and I did not know which version I should say.
I hated that, these were very nice people, AND I WAS STEREOTYPING THEM. That's was I was afraid of happing to me. How ironic... I felt like a jerk. I was so scared of being discriminated against, that I ended up judging them, and assuming that they were closed minded racists.
I said the proper pronunciation, and they said "That's beautiful."
UGH. I AM A JERK.
In my defense, though, I remember 9/11 and EVERYTHING that happened to me at school, and everything that happened to family in their place of work, and even our home being vandalized. It got so bad, my parents wanted us to go by my mother's maiden name, Jarboe. We were told that being muslim is something we have to keep to ourselves. But that is a different blog post, so stay tuned if you want to know what my family went through.
And by the way, I got the job and was offered two different positions, and a pay raise. Did it really have anything to do with taking the word "Islam" off my resume?