I refuse to back down
Barely 6 hours from landing I got into a cab, comfortably sat next to the driver, excited to take a ride into the heart of the city. Before long he had his hands on my thighs and breasts. I removed his hand violently and jumped out even as the vehicle moved. A hearty welcome and introduction to Cairo and a life of constant harassment and ridicule as a woman and a black person.
I walked gingerly, my first week of the internship. I felt goose bumps on my neck and turned. Tall, handsome, in khaki trousers and a sky-blue shirt; his image remains vivid in my mind. He walked behind me and before long I knew he was stalking me. I stopped several times to let him pass. He waited for me at the next junction, pretending to buy something from street vendors. Afraid he would follow me into an elevator; I sought help and survived. Another came from behind me and brushed his hand against my buttocks; in broad daylight. I turned and shouted. He walked away-no apology forthcoming.
I walked into a sports club, paid the required 100 EGP, preparing to cool down in the swimming-pool. Before I could; I was informed I could not use the pool. I asked why since I had paid. ‘Use of the pool is for members only’, they said. Nobody told me this before I paid. I was there because I needed the pool. My roommate (Spanish) had used the pool several times before. She was and is not a member. Why was I treated differently? “Samarah, samarah,” [dark-skinned person] they whisper, everywhere I go. “Are you a refugee?” they ask. Should every black person be a refugee? Some point fingers at me and laugh. It must be comical to see someone so ‘imperfectly’ created.
It hurts. Sometimes I feel like folding the tent and go back home. But I won’t. I am different. I am black. I am beautiful. I am fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image. I understand diversity and tolerance. I know being black is not a disability. I am proudly a woman. I will not feel any less because this context does not treat me with dignity and respect. I stand up to this blatant discrimination and refuse to back down. I am here for a purpose and will not give up until that purpose is fulfilled.