Majority of the Minorities

Sarfraz Shaikh

There’s something about summer that reminds me of migration. A year ago, last June I moved to Tulsa from Oklahoma City. Over a decade ago in June 1999, I migrated to Oklahoma City from Panaji, a small coastal town in India. While there are myriad objectives for migrations, the universal motivator is the want of a better future. So was mine.

Born to Muslim parents, living in an overtly Hindu dominated nation of 1.17 billion people, growing up in India wasn’t intimidating. However, occasionally it got arduous; instilling a baffled sense of belonging, religious insecurity, and social qualification. That was reason enough for me to ship myself to the promise land, the United States of America. A new place, new people, and a new beginning… or so I thought.

As I reflect back on the past ten years, I still find myself battling to resolve my dilemma of fitting-in. Though the variables have changed, the crisis is the same. Being a Muslim in today’s world is difficult, especially if you are the minority. Thanks to the beard-totting, gun-wielding radicals who have stained a normal, peaceable religion. My friends often empathize with me for making the Bible belt my home. They leer saying it wasn’t the smartest choice if you are running away from religious insecurity. I beg to differ. For me its more than religious and ethnic apprehension, it’s about feeling right, feeling at home.

I came to Oklahoma for graduate school. Low cost of living, quality education, and a job offer swayed me to be an Okie. Tulsa seemed like an ideal place – sophisticated, global-friendly philanthropic community. Even before I relocated, I was connecting through hotspots like Philbrook Museum of Art, TYPros, and Leadership Tulsa. So recently, when they cried that Tulsa was one of the leading racially biased cities in the US, I got uneasy. I had heard of Greenwood riots, but that was almost 90 years ago. And I believe we have come a long way.

I’ve had my share of racial nuances. But the good news is; they are more positive than negative. On the upbeat, I clearly remember my 911 experience. Amidst flaring patriotic emotions, my then boss, a conservative Fox News addict, reassured me of a comfortable and non-prejudiced workplace. On the downbeat, I have been financially wronged by a Christian religious minister who prophesizes about righteousness.

My two cents! There’s always the good and the bad. Let us not generalize and tarnish religious and ethnic alliances. Demography should not determine one’s destiny. America has emerged as a world leader largely due to a strong, secularist constitution, attracting the best minds from around the world. We live in a potpourri global economy, and as the world continues to shrink, let us strive to make our cities and communities diverse, culturally rich, and most significantly; productive.

I leave you with this interesting demographic truth about me. I am Indian by birth, married to a Pakistani, having recently worked for an African American business owner, with a Caucasian supervisor, and providing service to a majority of Hispanics, and Native Americans clients.

Thank you America, for making me feel at home.

Sarfraz is a marketing professional based in Broken Arrow and can be reached 

Updated 06-23-2010

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