Farah Khaled is an Orange County resident of Arab descent. She has not left her home since Sept. 11. But it's not because she has been glued to her television like everyone else.
"When they declared war in Desert Storm, I was threatened and beaten," she said. "I cannot take this again."
She wants her fellow Americans to understand that she, too, feels their pain. The mother of two says she is devastated by the terrorist attacks.
"Those people in Palestine that are dancing and singing do not represent us," she said. "They make me sick to my stomach. They sing and dance because they have no concept of New York City or the Pentagon. They think it's no big deal."
It's a big deal to Khaled because of the symbolism: it is as if "those people" are dancing on the debris-strewn graves of those buried under the Pentagon and World Trade Center. It's a big deal to her because of the wrath it will invite from an American military acting on behalf of angry Americans.
But it's mostly a big deal to Khaled because of the shit Middle Eastern people have had to put up with since the oil embargo of the early 1970s.
Along with Latinos and Asians, people from all over the Middle East now call Orange County home. Some arrived in the mid-1960s, when foreign governments began sending their young to American universities. Others have been pushed out by economic and political forces—like the Iranians who streamed into the U.S. after their country's 1979 revolution.
They stayed, though it hasn't always been easy. When Americans in Tehran were taken hostage in 1979, Middle Easterners—no matter their country of origin—found their homes splattered with eggs and paint. Women were threatened in the streets; men suffered more than mere threats.
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And they know the Sept. 11 catastrophe will re-ignite the backlash against them—no doubt on a much grander, more dangerous scale. The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has already reported that verbal harassment and beatings against those who look as though they are Arabic have escalated to all-time highs.
"I guess we should be grateful at this point that we haven't been rounded up and put into camps," said CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper.
Khaled has already imprisoned herself in her home, and she plans to keep a low profile for some time. She knows that as the investigation into the source of the attacks escalates, so will the hate. Her only option is to press on and hope that she somehow escapes serious repercussions because of her bloodline.
"I am very afraid," she said.