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  • Whenever I travel,

  • I carry a little metal box of Altoids mints

  • because after a four-hour, 7 AM flight, everyone has bad breath,

  • so almost anyone is willing to take the mint

  • from the Muslim on the airplane.

  • (Laughter)

  • And I know I've been successful when my neighbor turns and asks,

  • "So, what's your name?"

  • You see, even if there was an elephant in the room,

  • I'm still the elephant in the room.

  • (Cheer) Yeah!

  • When an elephant offers you mints on an airplane,

  • I'm fully aware that it's not always easy to accept,

  • so when the courageously curious do pop the what's-your-name question,

  • I try to make it worth their while.

  • (Laughter)

  • My name is Amal.

  • It means 'hope' in Arabic.

  • Most days my name is waitress at my family's Damascus restaurant,

  • full-time university student and then some,

  • pre-law, world traveler, 11 countries.

  • My name is I've performed poetry in eight of those countries.

  • (Cheers) (Applause)

  • International spoken word poet, unapologetic Muslim woman.

  • Syrian, American, hijabi, activist, social justice advocate.

  • My name is writer, teacher, Colorado-born Mile High baby!

  • (Laughter)

  • (Applause)

  • But at the airport, my name is random search.

  • (Laughter)

  • And on the street, it's terrorist,

  • sand nigger, raghead, oppressed,

  • and on the news, it's ISIS,

  • jihadi,

  • suspect,

  • radical.

  • My name is, "Could your Muslim neighbor be an extremist?"

  • My mama, who wears the hijab, the Islamic headdress,

  • is often referred to as "Go back to you country,"

  • but she's from Iowa!

  • (Laughter)

  • And her nickname is Lisa Pizza.

  • (Laughter)

  • And it does not take more than a couple questions

  • to figure out that her country is the Council Bluffs cornfields.

  • (Laughter)

  • But, how would someone know this without asking?

  • They say the shortest distance between two people is a story.

  • Well, I elaborate on that to say that the greatest distance you can travel

  • in the shortest amount of time, is by asking someone their name.

  • The way we name ourselves is a reflection of who we are,

  • our declarations, family histories, the things we believe,

  • the morals we abide by, our homes, cultures, transformations.

  • Like a Mohammed turned Mo, or a Lisa Pizza turned Iman.

  • And how we name others, and how, if, we allow others to name themselves

  • is a reflection of our own declarations,

  • of our courage, and our fear.

  • The malleability of a person's story must be self-determined,

  • coming from the lips of the storyteller,

  • not the anchorman, not the megaphone,

  • not even the scarf on her head or the melanin in his skin,

  • because no one can speak the names of billions in one breath,

  • unless it's in prayer,

  • and oftentimes when we generalize, it isn't because we're praying.

  • And when we don't ask someone their name, we're not asking for their story.

  • In the world of mass media and rampant misinformation,

  • it is hard for anyone, including myself,

  • to deconstruct all these terrifying stories that we hear.

  • Sometimes, instead of isolating them, individualizing them,

  • we tend to paint a group of people with a broad brush,

  • until suddenly, everyone with a hijab on is a raghead that needs liberating,

  • or everyone with white skin is a racist cracker,

  • or everyone with black skin is a fatherless nigger,

  • or everybody who looks like my father is going to blow up the airplane,

  • or if the killer had a light complexion, he's just a mentally fragile lone wolf.

  • And we come to this point

  • where we feel like we don't even need to ask people their names

  • because we already gave it to them.

  • In Europe right now, a monumental name change is taking place

  • that has completely transformed a humanitarian responsibility.

  • Countries are deporting refugees,

  • but when you watch news coverage,

  • these refugees are being referred to as migrants.

  • Because let's face it, deporting migrants sounds way more reasonable

  • than deporting individuals who have been forced to flee their country

  • because of persecution, war, and violence -

  • the United Nations definition of refugee.

  • (Applause)

  • And in naming these people this way,

  • we've attributed to them a choice instead of a circumstance,

  • some economic gain instead of a desperation to flee a war zone.

  • These little ones are refugees, not migrants.

  • I took this photo last year at a refugee camp

  • on the Syrian-Turkish border, and contrary to popular belief,

  • they aren't poisons.

  • They're not here to steal our democracy or to take over our neighborhoods.

  • They're people,

  • families who wish that they could go home

  • but have had to make that home somewhere else.

  • And we've come to this point, where the word 'migrant'

  • essentially means piles of brown, foreign-speaking people,

  • and we end up forgetting that there was a point where some people

  • would've considered those who looked like this

  • to be migrants as well.

  • (Applause)

  • Right, though?

  • (Applause)

  • And it is in this forgetfulness that we assume,

  • monopolize on people's stories, attribute their race, social class,

  • religions, clothing to the names that we chose for them.

  • Terrorism is a fine modern-day example, unfortunately.

  • In the past few years,

  • so much violence has just spread across our country,

  • but when you watch the news, there's always a specification

  • as to whether or not terrorism was involved,

  • which I think we all know means the killer looked like this.

  • [Arab dude]

  • Which...

  • (Laughter)

  • He's a babe!

  • Which must mean...

  • (Laughter)

  • Which must mean that the killer, of course, pledges his allegiance to this.

  • [ISIS]

  • Right?

  • But correct me if I'm wrong, news coverage does in fact tend to be a little different

  • when the terrorist looks like this.

  • [Robert Dear, Planned Parenthood Shooter]

  • (Applause)

  • And it ultimately has us forgetting that terrorism,

  • by definition of terrorism,

  • has always come in all shapes

  • [Ku Klux Klan]

  • and colors.

  • [Timothy McVeigh, Oklahoma City Bomber]

  • (Cheers) (Applause)

  • And what happens when we confine certain names with certain depictions,

  • wrongfully excluding some and including others,

  • we end up caging masses of people under a name that says 'dangerous,'

  • even if they're nowhere near it.

  • Like when we say 'thug' instead of 17-year-old black child.

  • [Trayvon Martin]

  • When we say 'alien' instead of 'immigrant.'

  • When we say 'lazy poor people' instead of 'unequal wealth distribution.'

  • When we say 'bomb' instead of 'clock.'

  • [Ahmed Mohammad, clock inventor]

  • (Applause) (Cheers)

  • This man's name is Craig Hicks.

  • He's often referred to as a parking dispute,

  • but his real name is a man who shot and killed three Americans in their homes,

  • in their heads, execution style because they were Muslim.

  • His name is hate crime.

  • Their names are Deah, Yusor, and Razan,

  • a 23 year old, 21, and 19.

  • Deah and Yusor were just named husband and wife, newlyweds,

  • and the three were known by their loved ones

  • as sons and daughters, brothers, sisters, students, activists,

  • Instagrammers, tax payers, Americans.

  • But now, their names are too young to have been taken,

  • their names are rest in peace, Allah Yerhamo.

  • Hicks did not ask them their name.

  • He assigned it to them when he assigned them each a bullet,

  • named them a threat to his America, and as a result, took their lives.

  • This is a photo on Deah and Yusor's wedding day.

  • It's so beautiful.

  • They were killed before they could even see this.

  • Studies show that during breaking news coverage,

  • the first story is the one that sticks, even if it isn't true.

  • Like during the Paris attacks,

  • when there was talk that refugees were dangerous

  • because they found a passport,

  • only to later confirm that there were no Syrians or refugees involved.

  • But when we have such a huge habit of misnaming people,

  • it's easy to overlook these kinds of mistakes.

  • And this is exemplary of what happens in a culture of fear.

  • In a society that doesn't ask one another their names,

  • you end up with the mouth of an anchorman

  • or the mouth of a gun doing all the talking.

  • On September 11th, 2001,

  • I attended a private K-8 Islamic school,

  • and within the first hours of the tragedy,

  • my school received two bomb threats.

  • The word 'terrorist' was not on my spelling list,

  • but all of us kids picked it up pretty soon after.

  • And in naming us terrorists amidst this mass tragedy

  • that affected us as Americans too,

  • in the words of Dalia Mogahed,

  • we were not just mourners, but we were suspects as well.

  • But, a few months ago,

  • me and my very handsome, white-boy-looking brother named Usama

  • were at the museum buying planetarium tickets,

  • and an elderly white man walked up to me and said,

  • "I'm sorry about everything you must be going through right now.

  • I want you to know that not all Americans believe what these buffoons are saying."

  • (Applause)

  • "Yeah, he used the word 'buffoons!'"

  • (Applause)

  • And he said, "I want you to know that we stand by you."

  • Now, had I not been wearing a little piece of my identity on my head,

  • he wouldn't have known to tell me this.

  • And even though he didn't ask me what my name was,

  • he instead told me his.

  • I have learned from experience that when someone really wants to know,

  • they will be willing to cross that threshold of fear

  • and find out that my name means hope.

  • And then, they'll have the courage to ask the much more important questions

  • that probably only I can answer, like,

  • "What's that thing on your head?

  • Were you forced to wear it?

  • Are all Muslims really violent people?

  • Does the Quran really say to kill all of us?

  • Can you please tell me what's up with ISIS?"

  • And these questions, though seemingly uncomfortable,

  • are how I know that I have been humanized,

  • and are how the courageously curious know that really,

  • I'm only as scary as the silence fear festers in.

  • Upon meeting someone new, we ask their names.

  • We do not assign it to them.

  • And with that name, we are given ancestry,

  • bloodlines and dialects, books and poems,

  • perspectives, wars, struggles, and survival stories.

  • "What's your name?" is such a short distance to cross,

  • but when you ask me, oh, buddy!

  • I will take you from Kuala Lumpur to Barcelona to Beirut.

  • We're going to go to Damascus, to Sydney, to Trinidad and Tobago.

  • I will show you Mecca,

  • my closet with 70-plus international scarves,

  • the graves of my 31 family members who've been killed in Syria,

  • the coffee shop that I hang out at and do my homework.

  • But we must have the courage to claim our curiosity,

  • to go beyond anything we ever knew, anything we ever feared.

  • But it takes two:

  • the elephant who offers the mint

  • and the one who takes it.

  • (Applause)

  • (Cheers)

Whenever I travel,

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B1 US applause laughter muslim elephant terrorism airplane

【TEDx】The Muslim on the airplane | Amal Kassir | TEDxMileHighWomen

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    韓梓翾 posted on 2017/09/28
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