Erased Perspectives of an Arab American Family

My intention with these images is to shine a light on a topic that is taboo among many Arab Muslim families. This past year, my parents got a divorce. Growing up talking about our emotions at home was not an option. It just wasn’t a real thing. My parents’ divorce was simultaneously relieving and frightening. I set out to create images of my deteriorating family. 

Dad was abusive. I always used to think that he acted violently because life had dealt him a bad card. Falling victim to the systemic racial injustices that plague post 9/11 America took a toll on his life and ours. The American dream didn’t work out for us. Maybe that’s how he justified his actions. My mother was also a victim of his abuse. She is the strongest person I know.

She has put up with so much for us. I wish she would have gotten a divorce sooner for our sake, but she was dependent on my Dad for many things. I tried to be as encouraging as I could with my Mom about her decision to divorce. 

Weirdly enough, I still love my Dad. I’ve talked with him about the past and have reconciled. For so long, I grappled with his behavior. There is a common stereotype in America that I grew up with that all Arab men are abusive to their wives. Growing up in a society that viewed me as violent, and seeing that stereotype actualized in my Dad, made me feel like it was all true. I hated myself and where I came from because of it. I worked hard to remain invisible. When people in school would call me a terrorist, they’d follow it up by saying the phrase, “It’s funny because it’s true.” 

These past few years have been formative. All my experiences led to the creation of these images. I sought help and learned from what I had experienced. I needed to break the cycle of violence. I refuse to be like my Dad. As difficult as things may get in life, I will not be a victim of my environment. I am a survivor.  These images are important to me because they expose a part of my life that is never discussed openly. They remind me to continue creating images that humanize our experience. That’s the power of the visual medium.