Identity Conflict as a Black Muslim Woman
February marks the start of Black History Month. During this time of remembrance and celebration, black people around the world will be sharing their experiences to showcase the adversities and triumphs in all of our journeys. As a young, black, Muslim woman, I am honoured to be able to share my truth, which I’m sure many others can relate to as well.
During my younger years, I lived in constant anxiety, and uncertainty on what the societal perceptions of the black community really are. Public policy and modern media conditioned our minds and planted social inconsistencies to only see the black identity in a way that fulfils a complex agenda. An agenda with the contradictions of being criminalized in the news, yet idolized in pop culture. Where your image is appropriated for popularity, but your success and leadership is suppressed. An agenda where the national policy of your Western land, thrives off the exploitation of your African roots. And where your voice is loud and determined, yet silenced at the same time.
It is the unfortunate truth that many black people see their skin tone as a social disability. The fact that we must rally to prove to society that our lives matter is not empowering, it is painful. Throughout this month, we must celebrate the achievements of historical and present black figures, but we cannot forget the precious lives lost in hands of brutality.
Being black in a Western country often highlights the intersectionality of your identity that you must come to terms with, and appreciate. In my journey, I had to learn to reconcile all of the pieces of my intersecting identities because there is much more to my personal equation.
When Race is Used as an Agenda
I am a young, black, Muslim woman. What is the social verdict when your race is criminalized, and your religion is demonized? I can be perceived as oppressed, weak, uneducated and inarticulate. Today, I have come to love who I am, but there was a time where I felt the need to seek validation from others. I always dreaded the “where are you really from” look that I would get after confirming to others that I am Canadian. Then, when I went into the depth of my ethnic origins, they become more confused because their idea of the world is simply white and black. But I am a whole lot of grey in between.
Being a young woman in today’s society also brings another set of challenges that I’ve come to accept. Often it can be reflected in having to fight to receive equal pay to my male counterpart, or standing in solidarity with my sisters to protect each other from harm. Or my personal favourite – being told to conceal my emotions to not be viewed as weak, yet show enough so to not be called out on the infamous rbf (check Urban Dictionary).
Accepting My Identity
Growing up, I faced a severe identity crisis. It took me many years to be conscious of my identity in the midst of this social chaos. Often, you feel like you are tolerated by society rather than accepted because you do not fit a certain image. In the spirit of truth and reassurance, I am a proud, black, African-Muslim woman. Wherever you are from, whatever language you speak, whatever the colour of your skin, or the texture of your hair, you must be conscious of yourself. Be extremely mindful of your personal journey, and of those who came before you. Because to love yourself, you must know yourself.
In celebration of Black History Month, I dedicate this piece to every person of colour, to every Muslim around the world. It is to all of the beautiful, trailblazing women and for every individual embarking on the journey to discover themselves. You must know that you are worthy of everything this world has to offer. Always remember that if someone is trying to limit your success, it is because they fear the force you are capable of becoming. So, show them your force and do not allow yourself to cater to their narrative.
We will not let xenophobia, racism, sexism, and brutality waver our minds. Instead we will use that as the spark to ignite the fire of passion waiting to be unleashed within.