HASSAN JAVED, 18
When I was younger, my patriotism was heavily, heavily fake. I would fake being patriotic to America just so my friends would accept me as American. Going to 4th of July parties, speaking good of America in classrooms at the time, like, wow America really is the cornerstone of democracy, I love being born in America - catchphrases like that. If I keep on just saying these two or three catchphrases over and over, eventually they would accept me as an American. Eventually they will stop asking me questions about Pakistan.
As I grew older, I realized that all of this was my parents' line of thinking. My parents' line of thinking was also that if someone says something Islamophobic or anything racist, you’re just going to keep your head down or you're not going to engage, you’re not going to resist. Questions that thought process made me realize that I was complicit in Islamophobia. If I don't call out islamophobia, if I don't call out racism and rather just excuse it by being a full “Patriot”, I'm really not helping things get better for myself or for like everyone else that will come after me. And so that moment I realized what it really means to be an American. I realized that here I am, in a community of people that will never view me as an American. I'll always be an outsider to them. So, is one of the ways to resist is to call myself an American? Is that only way to resist?
After all of these months and years of resisting against this outsider narrative that they associate you with, as I started following this pathway of growth, I realized that patriotism wasn’t and it still is not, and it probably will never be a patriotism for America as an institution or a patriotism for America as a system.
One of the things that I've found to be really passionate about, and especially once I started reclaiming my identity was, just being able to speak a sentence in Urdu without a tinge of English.
To me, it's like, okay, yes, this is what my ancestors resisted against the British empire for this is beautiful. I absolutely love it.