The first story, in How Does It Feel to Be a Problem by Moustafa Bayoumi, talks about Rasha, a Muslim, and her outlook about her family and her life story about being a problem in America. It all happened early in the morning while sleeping on February of 2002, lights were flashing on their house and she and her whole family were being handcuffed by the INS, US Marshals, and the FBI. The FBI agent told her that she and her family were being investigated for any terrorist connections from the 9/11 attack. She knew that this was not an accidental arrest because the team knew about their status and identifications. Rasha stated, “The man seemed to know everything about the family, including the fact that Rasha’s two youngest brothers, both minors, were U.S. citizens,” (Bayoumi 21). Then the whole family was separated and they were taken in to different prisons. Rash, her sister, and mom had to be stripped search, wore converse shoes and beige jumpsuits, and they were taken in to prison cells. Rasha thought that her family would get separated forever or get deported back to the Middle East. In the end, they were free to go and they were reunited with their whole family.
Rasha and her family did not realize how bad racism was until this “accident”. When she was in prison with her family, she experienced racial slurs by the guards. Rasha found friends and lawyers to help her and her family get out of prison. Rasha and her family were eventually cleared and were sent home. When she saw the American in the restaurant after her release, she went up to him and got mad at him for making her mother cry back in prison. Rasha stated, “You don’t recognize me?” All the scenes when he’d yelled at her, when he’d made her cry, when he’d made her mother cry, flashed in her mind. His expression didn’t change. “Remember?” she said, her voice rising. “MDC? You don’t remember me?”(Bayoumi 44). It did not change anything, but it sure was satisfying. Rashas’ story, in How Does It Feel to Be a Problem by Moustafa Bayoumi, shows the concept of living in the United States after September 11th in great depth. The numerous conflicts that the characters face with society demonstrate exactly what Bayoumi is trying to show.
Bayoumi starts off the chapter going into Rashas’ mind. She has just spent three months in prison with her family, and that has made her see the world in a whole new perspective. Rashas’ quotes Booker T. Washington, “I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him” (Bayoumi 16). Her experience in prison lets her know that she can’t let any human being make her feel beneath them. The author foreshadows the FBI raid when Rasha gets up and sees lights shimmering in the mirror. While feeling the urge to give up, Bayoumi points out, “She tried to transform her anger into a life lesson, to believe that God was trying to show her the nature of her humanity” (Bayoumi 26). Throughout the chapter, no matter what happens, Rasha turns to religion. Bayoumi constantly uses words such as: caged specimens, beasts, subhuman species, and lab rats to explain how Rasha felt while in prison. Getting out of prison and reuniting with her family was bittersweet. “No on knew how to balance gratitude with resentment,” stated Bayoumi (Bayoumi 34).
With the FBI cutting off their lives they had to sell their home, try and catch up with school, and get life back to normal. Rasha learned not to take little things for granted. Her freedom was very important to her, even though the talk of 9/11 was still heavy. Bayoumi points out that, “She now had her own analysis about the way the country is run, and she had proof about the way people are treated,” (Bayoumi 36). Out of the whole incident she realized that people take being a citizen for granted. In May 2002 the U.S. government was charged with violating rights. Bayoumi made it a point to her that law enforcement treated them wrongly. While talking to Sohail Mohammed, he states that, “This is not law enforcement. It’s random enforcement. It’s capricious and copious,” (Bayoumi 41). He finally gets the point across on how much it has affected Rasha in the end when she sees the correction officer. Speaking her mind made her feel that he was beneath her even though it would never change the conflicts she faces with society.