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American Hijabi Muslim Discriminated Against At a DMV in Southwestern United States
I am posting this on behalf of another convert who has reached out to me. She is Latin American.
“I was in the southwest of the United States. I am living in very harsh conditions, I don’t know where to begin or decide which is worse. The extreme heat that can go up to 125 degrees Fahrenheit, Trump bumper stickers everywhere I go, and the countless times I’ve been discriminated against. I’ve been wearing the hijab since last January and I’m a proud Muslim.
Here’s my story:
Today, I was at the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) to take my road test. I’ve been practicing for months and I finally got the courage to take the test. My brother came with me, ( he is non-muslim and younger than me ) and when I entered the DMV I checked in since I had an appointment. I was then directed to take my ID photo for my future driving license. I was standing in line and suddenly I heard a woman and a man with her (I assume her husband) cursing me under their breath in their strong Spanish accent). I then felt an overwhelming sick feeling of hatred from them, and aggression. I stood there and looked in front of me, seeing everyone else in their own world, and I started hearing an angry, hateful voice say “Evil people. Trump will deport them all”.
I was overcome with sadness, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing but honestly, I expected it due to all of the hatred from the campaign of Donald Trump. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, it felt like a nightmare in real life as cliche as it sounds. I felt frozen, sick and disappointed when I heard her keep saying OVER and over that I need to be “sent back” and that we are “EVIL” people, meaning Muslims. The man that came with her kept agreeing and he said in Spanish “He (Trump) should send all of them back”. It was my turn to take my photo and I stood in front of the camera trying my hardest not to let the tears fall out of my eyes. After the picture was taken, I was given a number and told to sit down in my assigned waiting area.
I sat down, and I felt all of the people around me looking at me like I had some kind of disease. I was always exposed to unwelcome behavior since I’ve been wearing the hijab but this time it was different. My brother was sitting next to me, and I told him what happened, and while I was telling him, I heard that same woman standing behind me scoffing and saying how I shouldn’t be here, and other racist remarks.
It was my turn to go up to the desk, and I asked my brother if that lady was still there and he said yes and the whole time, he heard her talking about me. I was told to wait in another section that was for the road test, and as I was sitting there I felt a strong feeling inside that I should SAY SOMETHING. I had such a bad feeling about her, this vibe of persistence, aggression and hate. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I was looking around trying to find someone that worked here so I could tell them to alert the manager or whoever is in charge about this. My brother kept telling me to not say anything, to not make a scene, to just let it go. Unfortunately the victims are always silenced and told that THEY are the ones that are being too much. I am TIRED of telling the voices that need to be HEARD to smile, stay quiet, and to keep the peace.
The peace will NOT come from ignoring problems or pretending like everything is okay. That gives the attackers/ victimizing power since they know that there will be no consequences to their unjust actions. The woman and that man sat in the same sitting area as me, at that point I knew that she was also here for the road test, which gave me more power inside to say something. Perhaps if she was there for a different reason, I wouldn’t see her anymore. I would just let it go because deep down, I felt sorry for her because she is investing so much anger towards people she probably never met. Racism is such a disease, also she looked old and ignorant, so a part of me wanted to let it go even more because maybe she just doesn’t understand.
I saw a man who was working there and I said “Sir, can I talk to you about something?”. I proceeded to tell him about what just happened and he was shocked, and kept apologizing to me over and over. H even asked me if I would like to reschedule my appointment. I didn’t want to because I didn’t want anyone or anything get in the way of not being able to take my test. He was super helpful and even offered that if I didn’t feel comfortable, I could have someone sit with me. He said he will get the manager. (A little earlier than this I took photos of them so I could show who it was.) I showed the photos and told him that she got up with that man and went over by window 19.
The man and woman that harassed me came out of the area they were in and started walking toward the area that took photos for the ID. I told him “Look! It’s them, can you please say something to them?”. He looked at me with hesitance, and then he got up and walked over to them to confront them.
At that moment, I was approached by another employee that informed me that it was my turn to take the driving test. I had my application completed, I showed my learner’s permit and he told me to get my car and meet him behind the building where the cones were, so I could take my test. I turned around and I walked past the two individuals that verbally abused me and right at that moment, the worker was finished talking to them so they both started walking behind me very closely. The woman started walking very quickly to the entrance and she started shouting “BOMB!!!!! BOMB!!!! THERE’S A BOMB!! ”
THAT is where I DREW the line and I shouted and approached her. “MA’AM! Excuse me !!!!!???? ” (This is UNACCEPTABLE and I am pretty sure illegal. You cannot shout BOMB when there is no bomb like you cannot shout FIRE in a crowded place, like this DMV on an early Friday afternoon.)
The woman continued to yell “Help! Help! I am being attacked!” I looked at her right in her face and I said, “Why are you saying these things?” she kept repeating that and continued saying, “BOMB”, and pleading for help. ” I said, “Why are you saying this to me, you’re Mexican?!” ( I said this because I was shocked that someone who was been targeted/ dehumanized as well because is Mexican, was harassing ME ) and she yelled at me “I am not Mexican, stupid!”
I pushed open the doors and walked out of the entrance that did photo ID’s and she screamed at me, ” GO BACK TO YOUR COUNTRY!!”
I shouted back as I was walking towards my car “I WAS BORN HERE”. She then said ” NOT WITH THAT THING” ( meaning my hijab). I got into my car, shaking, and feeling like I had to throw up. I was dizzy, embarrassed, and felt completely helpless.
To end this horrible experience I failed my driving test because I was shaking from the horror. I crashed into a pole and dented my car. I’ve experienced racism before, but this was on a whole other level. I did nothing wrong. I am a US citizen, not hurting anybody. Just an average 19 year old girl wanting to take my driver’s test. I never in a million years expected my first driving test to end like this. I sobbed the whole way home in the car because of how disgusting this hatred was. I reported it to the police and they are taking action against this sick woman who harassed me in public to humiliate me.
The rest of the information is confidential due to my own safety but this is what happens when the basis of a President’s entire campaign is fear, division, and ” It’s US vs. THEM”. I speak out for all the people who are attacked in a hate related crime. For the older women who wear the hijab and don’t know how to defend themselves. The ones who don’t speak English but know the language of someone who speaks discrimination and bigotry. Even the ones who are just so shy and freeze up in the moment. It happens. When it happens to YOU, and YOU are in that moment, maybe you’ll act different than what you expected. So far I have been told I should’ve kept quiet. I have been told to call the police right there and then, I was told I should record them. I took photos of them, I did what I could and I defended myself the best way I know how. I am so grateful I had the courage to do something, there have been WAY too many people who suffer in silence! Hours later I am still shocked. I am sickened. I am horrified.
Update: The police did nothing because they said they didn’t have enough “evidence” and I got her license plate number and they found it but couldn’t do anything since she lived in a different city.
Side note: I sent this email to 2 Muslim youtubers who spoke up about harassment towards Muslim women and how all this political mess has effected our everyday lives. I thought they would share my story or at least message me back but I was completely ignored. They would rather post titles that will give them many views and I felt worthless that what I went through wasn’t good enough to even be recognized. ”
*I do not own rights to the attached photo above*