Cultural stereotypes more prevalent than ever
January 5, 2017
Filed under Opinion
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BART rider Ivet Lolham thought she was having a regular phone conversation on the train one afternoon as she left work — until she became a victim of verbal harassment by her fellow passenger. Little did Lolham know, having her conversation in Assyrian was her greatest “mistake.”
The Northeastern Neo-Aramaic language is indigenous to the Middle East, with the first primary evidence of the language appearing as far back as 10th century BCE, and is spoken by an estimated 200,000 people throughout Iraqi and Iranian regions.
Such facts most likely never occurred to the rider’s harasser as a video recorded by Lolham and posted on Facebook displayed the woman immediately processing Lolham’s mother tongue as one belonging to “a Middle Eastern stalker terrorist” who “will probably get deported.”
Although the woman’s rant could have been chalked up as blatant nativist paranoia, her words possess an ironic truth.
Approximately 250,000 Assyrian refugees are stranded across Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey with 36 percent of Iraqi refugees being the region’s Christians, according to the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization.
Assyrians have mainly been driven out of Iraqi villages by an ultimatum established by the self-proclaimed Islamic State, known as ISIS, who have decreed Assyrians must convert to Islam or leave their homes.
Not only did ISIS completely evacuate areas such as Mosul and Nimrud of all Iraqi Christians, members also filmed a video inside a Mosul museum proudly meeting centuries-old ancient Mesopotamian artifacts with sledgehammers and drills.
My Assyrian mom and I watched the video behind tear-blurred eyes as we felt every stone strike the museum floor — watching our culture’s relics such as the Winged Bull of Nineveh boastfully smashed on her iPhone screen.
Once Lolham told her harasser that she is an American citizen, the woman smugly responded, “Lucky you, you made it just under the wire.”
Before making comments targeting each other’s cultures, the least we can do is be informed on the ethnicity’s history at a basic level.
Maybe then Lolham’s harasser would have seen that yes, despite constant displacement and numerous attempts at ethnic cleansing, my people continue to make it just under the wire.