Many of you don’t know the full story behind the work that I do, but only a few know how I got here. I share this today because our professionalism and personal lives always somewhat overlap.
I carried a refugee document until 2012. But it wasn’t my own story that inspired me to do something — it was the stories of my grandparents from both sides of the family, my parents, my many other relatives, and all the others who were in the same boat, living as refugees.
Their stories showed me how to recognize the act of dehumanizing a population through messaging, and leaders who speak only negatives about a community. Their stories helped me to see that that messaging, and those leaders are wrong.
They’re wrong because people are people. In my young years, living in Kuwait, I never experienced leaders who said inhumane things or called people “human animals” or other derogatory terms. On a day-to-day basis, I grew up in a loving family with loving friends that wished no one harm. They wanted to live day-by-day in a peaceful environment. And day-by-day wanted to avoid the bombs dropped on their heads, the bullets shot at their chests. These individuals with whom I grew up and learned from empowered me to see the beauty and resiliency in the people with whom I interact through my career.
People are people, no matter where they are. Occasionally you run into a bad apple but that’s rare. Most of the people I’ve interacted with — lucky for me — were individuals who wanted to improve their lives and the lives of the people around them.
Sadly, today, there are leaders who continue to dehumanize entire segments of the human population.
Cutting off water, electricity, and food supplies from an entire population in a Gaza — which is where my family originated — is absolutely unacceptable and we can’t stand for dehumanizing an entire population, linking them to the idea of individuals that live to kill.
It seems, as if the other side has that motive versus. I share this with you today because although you might see me as a success or a failure, whatever frame you see me in, I am always able to accomplish what I do because I am free from being judged by who I am or where I come from.
This possibly is why for most of my career and my life, I kept somewhat private where I come from and where and who I am. It’s not because I wasn’t proud — I am, in fact, exceptionally proud to be Palestinian-American is because I didn’t want anyone to have perceptions or notions or feel pity to try to help me.
I want to seize opportunities as they come and jump on them without feeling or knowing that someone is discriminating against me or trying to help.
I feel blessed by those who opened doors for me regardless of who I was or am, or where I came from, but because of the work I have accomplished.
As I reflect on my life as a refugee — occasionally homeless — I understand that environments in which you put individuals who are suffering, and your approach to supporting them can make or break them.
I was lucky enough to be able to hide the fact that I was a refugee and homeless. That opened doors through the work I performed, and the results produced.
I firmly believe everyone could have the same opportunities if you left the oppression that you forced on them and if you also look at them as human beings, not as someone to whom you are superior. Whether you want to oppress them or help them, they are just another human being standing next to you, working their way to a better future.
BEFORE YOU GO
We see our blogs as opportunities for dialogue. Please share your thoughts as comments.
- What can you do to ensure that you do not dehumanize any groups or individuals?
- How can you ensure your emotions or feeling pity for someone does not stop you from acknowledging who they are and the work they do?
- What other things have you done to keep you moving forward?
Faris Alami is Founder and CEO of International Strategic Management, Inc. (ISM). He works internationally, presenting Exploring Entrepreneurship Workshops and other entrepreneurial ecosystem — related ventures.