13-Year-Old Sumaiya Mahee Challenges Islamophobia

She was in third grade the first time a boy in her class called her a terrorist. People won’t sit next to her on the bus when she wears her hijab. Without it, people sit in the open seat without a second thought. Even living in a city as diverse and progressive as Cambridge, Sumaiya Mahee, 13, encounters some form of prejudice on a daily basis for her faith and heritage.

But her self-awareness and cultural knowledge is far beyond her middle school years. She is the author of an essay, “You’re Not Who You Say You Are: Beyond the Single Story,” an assignment for her combined social studies and English classes at Kennedy-Longfellow School that went viral and was published in Public Radio International’s Global Nation Education section.

“I face these stereotypes everyday because I am a Muslim girl. It's what I experience,” Mahee said. “Writing about this boosted my self-esteem because it gave me a way to tackle the stereotypes that I face. When I started talking about it, I realized I wasn’t alone and that other kids go through the same thing.”

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