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Humans of Hofstra: Muneer Kaikai

Humans of Hofstra: Muneer Kaikai

Photo Courtesy of Vanessa Chouest

There’s a certain type of vulnerability you allow yourself to experience when you decide to travel and see more of the world. In all three phases – before, during and after the trip – you experience an emotional rollercoaster. I love to immerse myself in different cultures to widen my perspective and nurture new ideas and learn. My most interesting experiences have come from my trips to Asia. These events left me confused and at a crossover road. I remember vividly feeling such a euphoria that I couldn’t fully wrap my head around whenever I went out by myself or with my sister and interacted with the locals. The vacation itself was such a necessary endeavor for me because the semester before winter break had challenged me in ways I could’ve never thought of. The excitement, [warmth] of the respective cultures and people mixed with the keen sense of exploration had led me to feel safe, so I never once thought of my race at the center of my life, as it always is when I’m in the U.S. or at Hofstra. The first of many ‘gazes’ started at the airport in Mumbai. After I got through immigration, I wanted to change money. Before I could take out my U.S. dollars to change to Indian rupees, the agent at the bureau was so excited to ask me about Kenya and how my flight with Kenya Airways was. I was confused and angry because this man had automatically assumed that because I was black, I was Kenyan and [had] flown in with Kenya Airways, because he thinks all black people would come from Kenya. I corrected him and told him I’m visiting from the U.S. and flew with Etihad via Abu Dhabi, and that I am of Nigerian and Sierra Leonean descent, with no heritage or connection to Kenya whatsoever. This man dismissed my corrections and went on to tell his colleague that I wanted to change local Kenyan money. The pièce de résistance of these awkward events was during spring break when I visited Dubai and Cambodia. While touring the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, a group of Chinese tourists took it upon themselves to make a line to take pictures with me. I was so astounded by their blatant ignorance and racism that I didn’t react. That experience brought me back to my hotel room to reflect on how the black skin is so damn political and polarizing ... I just had to smirk and almost rejoice in the fact that my mere existence as a black man can create so much commotion and conversation. I felt all the emotions and it was in that moment a realization dawned on me. My melanin is my greatest blessing, and my desire to be intentionally and unapologetically black and West African are what should and will propel me to fulfillment.

Humans of Hofstra: Stella Rose White

Humans of Hofstra: Stella Rose White

Humans of SGA: Donia Firooz

Humans of SGA: Donia Firooz