In November of 2005, I was teaching at a high school in my hometown. I attended this same high school as a student and I taught there for more than a decade with many teachers who taught in the school when I was a student. One day, upon entering the faculty restroom, I found a picture of myself at age 7 dressed in Arab garb. The words “Pigs of the World,” and “Shoot on Sight,” with a target drawn over me were scribbled across the photocopy of the picture that had been published in the University of Wyoming’s 1971 yearbook. I still don’t know how this nearly 40 year old photo, which didn’t include my family name, surfaced or which one of my colleagues harbored such extreme hatred for Arabs. Despite my contact with local police and my school administration, almost nothing was done to find the perpetrator of this incident. A blanket statement was made at a faculty meeting regarding the school district’s harassment policy and one faculty member was eventually interviewed after numerous requests by me to both administration and police, because her picture also appeared in the yearbook. I contacted the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and they suggested I turn this over to the FBI, but I was discouraged from doing so by my principal. In the end I made the choice not to pursue the issue out of fear of drawing negative attention to my family. I have always regretted this decision
The fifth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks had recently passed and just like the months following the attacks, I would get up at night and look out the window at my parents’ home to make sure everything was in order and that there were no suspicious cars nearby. The incident with my picture at school impacted my day-to-day life. I worried for the safety of my family and myself. This incident was far from being the first time I had experienced a negative response to my Arab heritage. It was, however, the first time I felt physically threatened. The reports of heightened anti-Arab sentiment in the wake of the 2001 attacks and the Iraq war had hit home.