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Racial Awareness at CHS

Nour Al Sakka

Melissa Silva

Q: What is your ethnicity?

A: I’m Arab-Canadian. Both my parents are from the Middle East, and I was born in Canada.

Q: How did your ethnicity influence your childhood?

A: My mom was really traditional, so when I was a little girl, she would tell me, ‘You should be doing this and this and other feminine activities,” and she’d get really mad and annoyed whenever my dad would take me to play soccer and do adventurous stuff.

Q: Do you find that you’ve been treated differently here in Cupertino than in Canada?

A: Yeah, I moved here last summer. I’ve lived in four places—Canada, Dubai, Syria, and America. In Canada I was part of the majority, Muslims, and everybody knew us, and in my school, I’d always sit with a group of Muslim people. So it was more inclusive. Here, it’s different. I guess it’s because I’m seen as different. I know that there are some people who wear a hijab, but I’m seen as a minority, so it’s hard to find groups of people that are like me. I mean, I want to be with other people, too, but it’s hard for me to get out of my comfort zone, especially since I’ve been used to [feeling included in Canada].

Q: Did you notice race while you were growing up?

A: Yeah. When I was growing up I was sort of isolated in all the countries I was raised in. Like in Canada, I don’t remember any differently colored people. I remember white [people], and thinking that I was white, too, and then I remember going to Syria and seeing kind of darker people, but I never really thought about it. And then I remember going to Dubai—still, no different colored people. And then when I went to second grade [in Canada], the majority of people were also white, but you did see some other races, and it was pretty cool and different for me to be exposed to different races. Eventually, when I grew up I saw racism. I heard about it. I heard about people treating others differently, I learned about slavery, and I didn’t really understand how people could be so rude to other people. So, it was different.

Q: Have you had any unique experiences because of your religion or your ethnicity?

A: I put this hijab on in eighth grade. And I remember everybody was shocked, almost. Like, what are you doing? “Did your parents force you?” was the most common question I got asked. And I didn’t really like that question, because I did this by choice. Some people were questioning me just to be rude, and I could tell. So sometimes I answered, “Because I feel like it,” and I’d be kind of sassy back.

Q: Would you say you started experiencing racism more when you started wearing a hijab?

A: Yeah. In my elementary school, it was not very diverse. But then when I went on to high school [in Canada], it was more open and it didn’t matter so much. And because I was part of the majority, it was the common thing.

Q: Do you feel more included here in Cupertino or in Canada?

A: Honestly, I felt more included in my high school in Canada. Maybe it’s because when there are more people like me, and I go and sit with them, I feel like we’re all the same, and they’ll be welcoming. Whereas here, it’s like, “What are you doing?”

Q: Why do you think you were treated differently in Canada versus here?

A: I think people just aren’t used to people like us yet.

Q: Have you noticed racism affecting others at Tino?

A: I don’t think so. It’s pretty diverse, in a way. It’s a different sort of diverse. But you see that the groups of people hanging out together are the same race. So, I think that could be changed a little.