Racial and Cultural Autobiography
My early years of life upbringing and eventful move to the United States from Saudi Arabia with my family are directly linked to the formation of my identity. My country of origin is Islamic and growing up, I never knew about racism as all the people shared the same nationality, spoke the same language and had the same skin tone. Perhaps there was a case or two about cultural and racial differences while growing up but they were so isolated that I could not remember due to the dominance of my culture and could not question, maybe because I was young. The religions and cultural practices are tight-knit and it is difficult to disconnect a cultural practice from a religious one. America gave me a whole new perspective of racism, which is something I had never thought about. This scenario played a huge role in me not questioning my own cultural identity. It wasn’t until after I finished high school and moved to the United States to study Civil Engineering in Utah Step, that I had the chance to interact with my peers from various racial and cultural backgrounds and started giving a thought about these differences. For the first time, I had the experience of identifying with the minority group, and this has given me a different point of view about our world.
My experience in learning English has also played a part in cognizance of my identity. It has been challenging trying to learn a new language at my age, but I keep trying to do my best reading and practicing with all the resources I come across. I have faced many challenges when trying to express myself over time, and I think I am gradually getting better at it with the help of close friends. My first residence was in the Salt Lake City, and I remember having a lot of challenges coping with my neighbors who made me feel I was not welcome. At one time, I saw some neighbors write on my car glass stating, “What are you doing here just Go home.” Many of similar situations happened to me in that neighborhood, which prompted me to move to the State of Indiana in a place called Hammond to pursue my studies there. This city is near Chicago and it is more multicultural when compared to the place I initially lived. It was quite a relief getting to this new place because I felt like I was accepted and people here interacted and engaged with me easily.
There are a lot of cases of sexism against females in my country of origin, which tend to be controversial in the western culture. For instance, it is unacceptable for women to drive a vehicle, work or have a job because the state and community consider that idea as a shame to the families of the women involved. Some actions like prohibiting driving may be mistaken for religious reasons, yet it is due to the strict culture. Additionally, women are not allowed to walk or travel alone, unless accompanied by a male relative. The place of women is indoors and not be seen in public, which results in most of them not following successful careers like their male counterparts. The dress code for women is uniform in the whole country, which requires them not to show skin to the public. They are also not permitted to make decisions, whether on private matters affecting them on their own without male intervention in the form of husbands, brothers, uncles, cousins or fathers. On this side of the world, the culture is more liberal given that both men and women are considered equal. This gives men and women equal opportunities to make decisions concerning their individual lives. The women here can walk alone at whatever time of the day, dress however they feel without anyone questioning, drive, and actively work or be employed and responsible for their lives. Unfortunately, in Saudi Arabia, there is a group of people that support the authorities in implementing sexist actions against the women, but it is contrary to the US because there is a unified voice condemning the practices that seem to undermine women. My views as a man have changed over time as I am maturing and I strongly feel the need to do something about the cultural practices that demean women in my home culture. I know it will not be easy but I know there are other people who feel the same and our combined voice through time will eventually yield fruits.
I think the interaction with the western culture has made me liberal, especially in matters affecting women. I feel that there is a need for stronger voices to advocate for women in my country of origin because they are denied basic rights. I believe in a society that accepts everyone as they are, whether male or female, whether disabled or not, from different backgrounds and giving them equal opportunities to make decisions and to thrive in whatever they want to do.