They Called Me a “Spic”

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Over the past week, my friends and I have been playing on a new roller hockey court that isn’t too far from my house.  Prior to that, we’ve been playing on a relatively unused basketball court (pictured above) for months, which has been fun for recreational hockey/pick-up games, but we really wanted to play on a better surface and actually use a puck instead of a ball.

We finally found a roller hockey court where a good number of people play at.  Although competitive, no one plays a rough game, there are people of all ages, and unsurprisingly, everyone is White.  Except for me (also pictured above) and my brother.  Being the only person of color at a hockey court isn’t something new to me.  When I played for an in-line roller hockey league in high school, I found myself getting self-conscious about it when people, including my teammates, would poke fun at my first and last name.  I remember one time, a couple of kids I played hockey with called me a “a stupid Afghanistanian” when I was carrying my hockey gear off the court.

I find myself operating under White gaze a lot, if not always, especially when I’m playing hockey with people I don’t know.  I can’t help but think about how they perceive me, a brown-skinned man, playing a sport that is filled with predominately White athletes (at least here in the United States and with what we see in the NHL).  If my friends and I are playing hockey on our old basketball court, I don’t feel like I’m going to be judged if I’m wearing my Pakistani cricket jersey or my Egypt and Turkey soccer shirts.  I don’t worry about it because I’m playing with my friends — people I know.  But when it comes to going on this new hockey court, I feel that if I wear a jersey that says “Pakistan” on it, people will be gunning for me or treating me in a rude way.

Maybe I’m thinking and assuming way too much, right?  Wrong.  Yesterday, before I went to the new hockey court, I swapped my red Egypt soccer jersey for a red Nautica t-shirt.  I figured, “I don’t want to deal with people giving me smack about my shirt saying ‘Egypt’ or making some stupid racial slur or whatever.”  I got to the court, laced up, and said “hi” and “what’s up” and “how’s it going, man” to all of the people there.  Everyone was friendly, conversational, and pretty much just wanted to have fun.  So far so good, I thought.

Since there were so many people, we played with line changes, and I think I played at least six shifts the entire day.  I ended up doing really well too and scored four goals.  When everyone packed up to leave, my friends and I said “good game” to everyone and that was the end of that.  Fun day, right?  Well, today, my friends and I played at the court again and a friend of mine told me, “Oh man, I have to tell you something.  When you scored your second or third goal yesterday, this kid on the bench said, “f****** spic!”  My friend said he was going to say something, but before he could, someone shouted at him and said, “yo, watch your language!”

It kind of messed up the rest of my day.  I’ve noticed that some people at that court try to play more aggressive against me (as opposed to others), and it could be because I stick-handle really well and they’re just trying to steal the puck from me, but then there’s another part of me thinks it’s because of my skin color.  Playing hockey for a long time in my life means I’m familiar with how the frustration and aggression levels can rise when you’re on the losing team or not performing as well as you would like to.  When you factor in a brown guy scoring most of the goals for the other team, would it be wrong to assume that the frustration could build into a racial slur?

The word choice of the person who delivered the racial slur just shows us even more how racists don’t even know who they hate.  It shows how ignorant, childish, and idiotic they are.  I am familiar with the racial slur, I know it’s directed towards people of Hispanic descent, but since this is the first time I was called it, I decided to run a few online searches just to read about it’s origins and use.   Reading about it just made me angrier and I don’t think it’s appropriate to share that information here.

I don’t care if people mistaken me for another race, there isn’t anything wrong with being Latino, Asian, Arab, or anything else.  What is offensive is when people use racial slurs — there is simply no excuse for it.  It’s offensive, it’s racist, it’s flat-out wrong.  If he thought I was Arab, he would have used another racial slur; if he thought I was South Asian (which is what I am), he would have had a racial slur for that too.  The point I’m trying to illustrate here is that I refused to wear a “team Egypt” soccer jersey for the sake of avoiding ethnic/religious stereotypes, but since I’m brown-skinned, I ended up getting stereotyped anyway.  How do you hide your skin color, right?  Thank God that I don’t wish I could hide my skin color, but what about the people who do wish they could hide their skin color just for the sake of avoiding conflict?  Maybe there are times when I do feel that way.

If there is something positive that came out of this, it’s that it reminded me that people of color face similar struggles.  I would say that most people assume I’m Indian (which is correct and incorrect at the same time, lol), but there have been a few people who mistook me for Latino, Arab, and even Greek.  When I hear a racial slur that is used against other people of color, it not only angers me, but also makes me think about the struggles they experience.  There are so many different stereotypes applied to all of us and they are experiences that we all share.  Most of the time, when I’m sharing some of my experiences with racism with a fellow person of color, I feel comfortable because I feel like they can empathize and understand where I’m coming from.  This person who used that disgusting word may have thought that it was “ok” or “acceptable” to use it, but I doubt he understands how hurtful it is.

I try to stay positive about it all.  At least someone on the bench told him to shut up, right?  Much Love to everyone who has experienced any form of discrimination, hate, or racist bigotry in their lives.  Keep your chin up, friends.

Dunkin’ Donuts, Allah, and Quantum Physics

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So, I’ve been speaking to some of my friends about quantum physics lately (by the way, isn’t the picture above amazing?) and how our thoughts carry vibrations that affect the world around us. As a result, I’ve been thinking deeper about the connections we make with other human beings as well as the world. I have a book called “The Sense of Being Stared At” by Rupert Sheldrake and it argues that our experiences with “coincidences” and “unexplained phenomena” (such as sensing who’s on the phone before answering it) are rooted in our biology. It’s really fascinating because he grounds a lot of his theories in scientific research. These experiences are so common and yet they’re rarely studied or taken seriously. We tend to overlook them too and dismiss them as mere “coincidences.”

I’m sure all of us have had experiences that we can’t explain. I know those who delve into spirituality/mysticism talk a lot about how everything happens for a reason. As the Qur’an says: “And with Allah are the keys of the unseen, no one knows them except Allah. He knows all that is in the ocean and on the land. No leaf falls without His knowledge, nor any particle in the dark recesses of the earth, nor anything green and fresh or dry and withered but that it is in a clear book.” (6:59)

I don’t believe in “coincidences” and I’ve always believed them to be signs. Even with my friends or when I meet new people, I know there is some greater purpose and significance there. We meet people for a reason, we go to certain places for a reason, we experience joy and sorrow for a reason, and so on. Talking about energy, morphic fields, and vibrations is so fascinating because, as a friend put it, it’s “science affirming mystic thought!”

Yesterday, I had one of those experiences. The weather was absolutely beautiful, so my friends and I made plans to play roller hockey. Prior to our game, I oddly felt in the mood for one of those supreme omelet croissants at Dunkin’ Donuts. Yeah, I know. Dunkin’ Donuts, not healthy, not good for you, lol. But I went through the drive thru and, as expected, there was a nice Indian woman who took my order. I drove up to the window and said, “No bacon or meat on it, right?” She shook her head and said, “no.” Then she asked, “From where you are from?” I replied, “Lahore, Pakistan.” She smiled and asked, “Hindi nahi aati?” (You don’t speak Hindi?) I smiled back and replied, “Tori se aati hain” (I know a little bit).

I laughed because I tried to carry a conversation with her in Urdu/Hindi. She asked if I was born here, and I was like, “Nahi, Lahore mein peda howa” (No, I was born in Lahore — I don’t know if I said it right, lol, so feel free to correct me!) She responded, “And you still don’t know how to speak it?” (She said that in Urdu/Hindi, but if I try to transliterate what she said, I’ll butcher it!) Then I had to drop the Urdu/Hindi and tell her that I was born there but never lived in Pakistan since my parents moved us to the United States. “I’m learning though,” I added. “Yeah, you should!” she replied.

When she went to get my food, I said “sobhan’Allah” out loud and laughed. Whenever I go to Dunkin’ Donuts or other stores, the South Asian clerks rarely speak to me in Urdu/Hindi, let alone ask me about where I’m from. Of course it’s happened before, but it’s been a while. I couldn’t help but think about my most recent note, “Searching for My Pakistani Identity,” and how I mentioned feeling bad for not speaking Urdu/Hindi with South Asians. And yesterday, a day after I wrote the note, there I was talking to a South Asian in Urdu/Hindi.

Coincidence? I don’t think so. There is Beauty in these precious moments and experiences we have. They’re filled with so much meaning and, as Shah Nimatullah Wali puts it, “everything throughout the world, everywhere, end to end, is but a reflection of a ray cast from the Face of the Friend.”

After she handed me my food, I said “shukriya” (thank you) and drove away with a smile. I couldn’t help but think Allah was smiling at me :)

Ya Haqq! (Hail the Truth!)

~Broken Mystic~

Oneness

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An old poem I wrote in August of 2007. I recently shared it on one of my friend’s Facebook page, so I decided to share it here as well.

Look beyond the illusion of separation
Call me not by labels of the world
Not even “male” or “man”
Do not look at the color of my skin
Or what flag I “belong” to

Muslim, Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu,
European, African, Middle-Eastern, Asian
Whatever you are, come closer
Love’s flame says, “I can’t take it anymore”

Mystic fire races through the unseen
Burning the walls of separation to ashes
“The gates have been unlocked”, says Divine Love
“And the keys were melted by my passion”

Your maps are wrong, erase those borders
Move closer to each other
Language, culture, religion – these are not barriers
Friendship always finds a way

Throw your labels away for once
And put judgment to rest
Look inside, beneath the skin
Do you see what burns within?
The flame of Being – I am that
You are that

Love has shattered those inner walls
And said, “You will not need these anymore”
Receive with open arms, open heart
Radiate, Shine, and Give

Glow with me, O world!

We belong to the same family
Same Creation, same Source
Take up your instruments
From all corners of the earth
And celebrate this unity!

O Beloved, burn with me!

~Broken Mystic~

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