I’m Terrible at Being Angry

“These were fifth graders, I don’t think they really mean to be racist. They’re probably just trying to get a laugh.”

Edited by Nick Ladeau.

Transcript for I’m Terrible at Being Angry

I don’t think they really saw me as a Middle Easterner. I mean, some people have even made mistakes, thinking me a Chinese, which I don’t understand how they could make that mistake, but people didn’t really think me as Middle Easterner. I told them that I was from Afghanistan, I think, and because it was 2003, and the Iraq invasion had already occurred, and so there was this tension, even there was a political tension, but, no, these students are probably influenced by that to ask these questions, because I was from Afghanistan. But I don’t think they really saw me as a threat. They didn’t… they didn’t think me, you know, actually hating Americans. They wanted to ask because they wanted to see how I would answer.

I think, this was in 2003, and my family and I came into Atlanta, Georgia—we settled there in April 2003. So one of the, I think, one of the most vivid memories I have of a joke was the fact that sometimes I would… a person, a student would come up to me and say, Are you Osama bin Laden’s son, and me not being able to… me being perfect speaker, you know, I would, you know, try to figure out what he was trying to ask. And I would answer the best way I could not taking any offense to that because I was thinking maybe, you know, he’s asking sincere question, he doesn’t know. But later on, I started to make, you know, laugh along with them, and they would laugh as well. And they would say, Why do you hate Americans? or what have you, you know, and I would just, you know, I would make a joke as well, and move on with it because I have… I think, I learned that the best way to get past these remarks that people were making, the offensive remarks, probably didn’t mean… these were fifth graders, I don’t think they really mean to be racist, they probably just trying to get a laugh. And I, you know, I would laugh along to get past that. And I made friends with these people as well because of that, when I realized, oh, you know, what this was said… there was actually this, there’s some something offensive about this, but, again, I didn’t read into it, I don’t… I still don’t read too much into it. I mean, because again, I really think back and think, you know, these are young students, these are fifth graders, these aren’t adults, they don’t actually have an innate hatred towards people, they just… part of it because they want to tease a new student, part of it is because they see something funny about it. They don’t, they probably don’t understand it themselves. So I don’t read too much into it. And I don’t think it’s positive to hold a grudge even now against such a thing. 

I don’t think… I’m terrible at being angry. Because when I’m… when I think about how am I… if I’m going to be angry, I’m thinking, What do I look like if I’m angry? What do I say? Do I say the right words? What if I say the wrong word, and he starts laughing and not take me seriously? So I have a hard time being angry. And I think that’s something that because of the experiences I had, when those jokes were made against me, you know, I would laugh along, so I think that I developed that, so that’s probably some… a behavior that I have, I just, I can’t be angry. I might just walk out of the room without anyone noticing. But I will never, you know, just speak out in a loud voice. So I think that… that I’ve developed probably that subconsciously, I suppose.

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