On What It Means to Be A Black Muslim Woman In America Today

By Isatou Daffeh

Today, as a black Muslim woman, my self-love is so revolutionary in a world that is telling me otherwise. I am expected to tone down “that” blackness when I step into room with Muslims. At the end of the day, I stand out in a crowd and I love that.

Being black and Muslim means that when white people walk in the elevator, they don’t know whether to clutch their phones or call up the FBI hotline.

It’s my mother pleading with me, begging me, to not run in public because the cops might attack me while deciding whether I robbed a store or bombed a store. But I still do it anyway. It’s fun to scare people sometimes.

It’s being told that the amount of melanin prominent in my skin is the only reason I’m at this university [NYU].

The mere mention of black Muslims is the elephant swinging around the room.

It’s rarely hearing any prayers about any tragedies currently happening throughout Africa, in the masjid, but seeing masaajid named “Masjid Bilal.”

It’s brown people trying to justify their use of the “n” word when I can’t even find any justification for myself.

It’s walking down hallways and blocks, seeing a Muslim, saying salaam but getting that glare - That ice cold shoulder. That glare that demands an answer “Why would you dare.” Oooooooor just getting ignored.

It’s sometimes wondering if telling people your name is A’isha instead of Isatou, makes you less different and Muslim enough.

It means that you have no place within the Muslim American narrative.

And we’re not supposed to speak about these things aloud, about the racism and bigotry, only because it makes us uncomfortable, Only because everyone else should think the Muslim community is perfect (Buuuuuuut we’re not. (sorry not sorry))

And we’re all really shocked with this country and the xenophobia present, but so many of these sentiments reside in our community… Oh, wait, YOUR community.

It’s everyone talking about the Chapel Hill shooting, but not about the Indiana shooting. It’s you all knowing the names Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, but not Mohamedtaha Omar, Adam Mekki, and Muhannad Tairab.

It’s hearing about black Muslim boys and men being murdered, but people worrying about whether they were in a gang, or at a party, because it’ll validate their deaths and the lack of support.

It’s never getting enough of hearing “Sooooo, like, when did you convert!?”

It’s people you’ve never seen in your life instructing you on how to make salaat.

It’s your (supposedly) Muslim brothers and sisters talking about being black as if it’s one of the worst things a human being can be of.

It means being okay with having only Arab and Desi Muslims represented in the media and black Muslims “claimed” ooonly when they’re winning awards.

It’s never knowing if someone dislikes you because of your of race or religion or both. It’s never knowing if the seat next to you on the train remains empty despite you practically sticking yourself to the wall because of your race, religion, or both. It’s being the outsider within the one community you thought you could find solace in.

It’s being the “other” within the Other. It’s never, ever, ever being comfortable in Muslim groups and MSAs. And struggling to fill the gaps between you and the people next to you during salaat.

And it’s those little micro-aggressions that hurt the most, that are realized so easily and are so clear, yet because you’re the only one who notices it, you start to tell yourself you’re overthinking, you’re just bugging out, maybe YOU’RE being racist even.

It’s having your knowledge devalued and power underestimated.”