Sometimes I get to start off my day with a cup of green tea infused with cardamom. I love watching the seeds slowly making its way to the bottom of my cup. Have you ever noticed that cardamom seeds turn green tea pinkish? The tea is my origins, my love for my ancestors, my past, in Kabul, Afghanistan, from which my parents and uncles, and aunts fled, carrying three-month-old me, over the Hindukush to Pakistan. I also love what Germans like to drink fruit tea – yes, I am talking about the prepackaged one you can buy anywhere. And no, my ancestors would not turn in their graves. But sometimes life does not let me sip tea; it serves me up bullshit with a drizzle of mind-numbing stupidity.
Take for instance Emily – she professed on a Saturday afternoon, how she was surprised to hear that even in London racism exists. The angry me would raise her eyebrows, adjust her glasses, and put on her Christiane Amanpour persona. My interrogative skills would immediately silence her. My soft voice would extrapolate her shame and put it on a front-page cover of a gossip magazine. Instead, I am starting my own inner monologue. White fragility I say to myself, then I begin to chuckle. Zohra, you must focus. She wants to bond with you. Bond over what? She is just as likeable as any female character in Faulkner’s works. She will probably end up as a spinster hiding the corpse of her lover, too. Zohra, stop it. Perhaps more disturbingly – my neighbor Rosa is not any better. On a window sill – right next to a pile of magazines lies the object that incites my utmost hatred. A small black figure wearing a white dress with a blue vest. She is clasping her fingers together whilst kneeling. The figure itself is positioned on a silver pedestal. The plaque on the figure says something along the lines: “Willst du den Heiden Hilfe schicken so lass mich Aermsten freundlich nicken.” This piece of colonial ignorance is paired with a coin slot. Did you know, it bows its head once you put 10 cents in the slot? Rosa thinks “it’s so cute!” This time you do the math.
I thought academia was better. Sitting in a Zoom session full of PhD candidates – one had the caucasity to say that the sound quality of the Zoom call reminded her of a reporter in Afghanistan. Zohra, just don’t. Mute. Pause. Breath. None of the other PhD candidates said a SINGLE WORD: Is that the price someone like me has to pay? Being attacked, humiliated and offended by the woke and cultured? She might as well have said, “Thank God we’re not in a shithole country but here in civilized Germany.” So much for being my ally. I chuckle. Allies…In situations where people say too little or nothing at all, I am apparently the one that is too loud, too angry and too sensitive. I make everything about race, class and gender too vague. Position yourself, they say. Isn’t it worse in Iran for women than in Afghanistan these days? But there’s no point in erecting hierarchies of trauma. The death of Mahsa Amini is just as gruesome as the murder of Farkhunda Malikzada, who was beaten and burned alive in Kabul. Am I not allowed to shed tears for every Muslim woman whose life is under constant threat, too. Sometimes I just want to show up to work wearing my favorite black suit and my pink burka, accompanied by a random man wearing a black turban, a Shalwar Kameez, brown leather sandals; and 10 random children of every age. Ready for Steve McCurry and the front cover of the National Geographic in 2022. Zohra, just get your cup of tea.