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Thursday, September 24, 2020

‘The way we name ourselves is a reflection of who we are’

We must have the courage to claim our curiosity, to go beyond anything we ever knew, said Syrian-American poet Amal Kassir.

By: Lifestyle Desk | New Delhi | July 27, 2020 7:00:36 am

Syrian-American poet Amal Kassir spoke about ethic divides at a TED event in Denver, Colorado. She spoke about the cause for such discrimination, which boiled down to just this: the misnaming of people. Throughout the talk, her endearing and charming nature carried
through as she spread her message: “the greatest distance you can travel in the shortest amount of time is by asking someone their name.”

A social justice activist, Amal has performed her spoken word poetry in eight countries, sharing everywhere from prisons to refugee camps. In her talk, she elaborated that in this world of mass media and rampant misinformation, it becomes very easy to assume names. “At the airport my name is random search… On the streets, it’s terrorist… And on the news, its ISIS…,” she shared. Her lesson was a simple one, “The way we name ourselves is a reflection of who we are… And how, if, we allow others to name themselves is a reflection of our own
declarations, of our courage and our fear. The malleability of a person’s story must be self-determined, coming from the lips of the storyteller itself.”

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She showed the audience, and the listeners at large, how most crises are formed out of not asking people their names. Refugees are named poison, Muslims are named Jihadis, young black children are named thugs. She criticised this, saying, “We assume, monopolise on people’s stories, attribute their race, social class, religions, clothing, to the names that we chose for them.”

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The speech she gave was a perfect blend of appealing, engaging, heart-rendering and humorous. “‘What’s your name?‘ is such a short distance to cross. But once the courageously curious do ask, they know that I’m only as scary as the silence fear festers in.” In conclusion, she emphasised, “We must have the courage to claim our curiosity, to go beyond anything we ever knew, anything we ever feared. But, it takes two.”

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