I moved to the US from a Bosnian refugee camp on September 10th 1995. I was almost fifteen. Everything happened so fast that I didn't really have time to process the gravity of the situation, that I was actually moving by myself to a different country. I spoke a little bit of English which I learned in a refugee camp, from Beverly Hills 90210 and all kinds of movies. People don't expect me to be Muslim because I'm white, but I was born into Islam. Post 9/11 people were like "watch out" but I never experienced any discrimination because I'm white. It's a shitty time, it's a horrible time, this country is becoming more conservative, the pendulum is swinging one way. This particular election is proof of that. I went to a Quaker high school and I love the Quaker philosophy—peace, acceptance, non-violent conflict resolution, unity—basically everything that Bosnia needed at the time. I would never go back to live there. It would be a regression, a slow death. I am so much more American than I am Bosnian now.
The simple answer is I am American. The complicated answer is, what makes me American? I remember when I got my ears pierced by hot sticks, I knew that something was a little different. My mom is from Korea and my dad is from the Gullah. The Gullah is like the Caribbean of the South, descendants of enslaved Africans who settled in the lowlands of South Carolina and Georgia. In my case they are mixed with indigenous native people—the Cherokee, the Yemassee. My dad was in the army and he met my mom in Korea. Being an army brat I grew up all over America. Technically, having Cherokee blood I am actually an original American, but being born in America makes me American too. America today is like a mural of different colors and pieces that make one beautiful picture. A melting pot to me means we’re all just dumped together and mixed around. But really it’s a choice, we’re creating this picture.
People usually think I’m Mexican and they try to speak to me in Spanish. I was born in Istanbul. I moved to the US for education purposes in 2013. I become every day more adapted to this culture, and being more natural and more myself in this country. Every day more. I feel that people accept me. My family back home feel good about me being here because they are having financial struggle. Because of the war, my father’s business is not going well. Being an immigrant for me is a life choice, it’s a freedom. It’s not easy to move, I didn’t know anybody, I had no friends when I moved here. Nobody. I was struggling. Now I’m here, I got married, I have a child coming, everything is just happening fast. I didn’t really think that much, I let it go. I had goals but I didn’t have expectations. Being an American is being an individual, your own person, happy, simple. If you really want to, if you aren’t crazy, if you’re strong enough, you can do it. I love America, man!