Commentary: An open letter to the man who said: 'Go home Paki'

The following was written by former 13News Now social media manager Alisha Ebrahimji, who now works at our sister station WFAA in Dallas.

“Go home, Paki.”

In the 17 years of living in this wonderful city I have grown to call home, I have never had anyone racially attack me in that way. I have reported, wrote and produced stories where others have experienced similar situations— if not worse. But I have never had words so vile hurled at me. And for those who don’t know, being called 'Paki' is equivalent to calling an African American a N*****. It's ignorant, not to mention distasteful.

As a digital reporter, I’ve seen and read a lot of hateful comments, sure. But to hear these words screamed with vitriol in broad daylight finally gave me the courage to share my experience with others.

I am ethnically ambiguous. And because of that, some have incorrectly assumed I’m Hispanic, Persian, Middle Eastern, Greek. You name it, I’ve got it all— and I understand that. Yet, it’s sad I have to use my experience of hate to teach a valuable lesson here. But what I don’t get and what I refuse to accept is the lack of ignorance our nation, our state and our city is under right now.

There I was. At the turning light in downtown, windows down, enjoying one of the better weather days here in North Texas, when a man in his late 30’s yelled through the window of his red pick-up truck into my car. I was less than a block away from the station.

“Go home, Paki.”

I have so graciously been placed in a position to tell other people's stories, I just never thought today would be mine. So doing so in the only way I know how, I’d like to write an open letter to the Caucasian man in the red truck who thought it was okay to yell what he yelled, in public...and to all those who may think they are "culturally in tune” with the melting pot of people that Dallas is home to.

Dear man in the red truck,

First and foremost, I applaud you. I applaud you for not hiding behind a computer screen like most would and have done. But, I’d like to get a few things straight.

#1: I am not Pakistani. I am Indian. While they are neighbors geographically, the two countries share a variety of differences. The term “Paki" itself is an extremely racially offensive term that should never be used by someone who does not have Pakistani heritage.

#2: My last name is indeed Muslim and that’s simply because my father is Muslim- Gujarati and my mum is Hindu- Gujarati. (But then again, how would one know that before ever conversing with me)

#3: THIS is my home. I was born in Baltimore, Maryland and like the saying goes...'I wasn't born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could.' Texas has always and will always be my home. My parents were born in Africa and raised in the United Kingdom so yes, I do come from a family of immigrants but that should not define how I am treated in the United States.

#4 Yelling unfavorable words out of a car window may seem like the only way you will be heard, but education and proactive action with your local congressman will take you further.

And finally, I leave you with this from American actor, Alan Ada, "Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in while, or the light won't come in.”

The only way we can overcome racial profiling and ignorance is through education, constructive dialogue and moments of enlightenment. 

Man in the red truck, I just want you to know, you didn’t break me, you made me stronger. Stronger to realize there is still so much work to be done if we are going to continue to unify this country…and ultimately this world. So for that, I say thank you. Thank you for allowing me to stay woke and work harder as a journalist to tell these stories.

Yours truly,

Ethnically ambiguous, Alisha Ebrahimji

Want to talk? Email me or find me on Twitter.

Copyright 2016 WFAA


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