We have this strange idea in our community that ignorance is an excuse. We are meant to forgive those who share anti-whatever views, meet them with kindness or educate them. And it’s funny, that it’s often victims or those the most marginalized in our communities that are asked to do this by people with privilege. We are asked to be respectful, while people disrespect or undermine our very existence because they are “ignorant.” We are asked to be silent, as if our experiences don’t have weight and our well-being means less than their feelings.
This is the year I’ve stopped caring about feelings.
The number of times I was told that a person in my Muslim community saying something anti-Black wasn’t a big deal, and that I should educate them, or that they weren’t a bad person and didn’t mean anything by it is nauseating. And for a long time, I listened. I thought it was my place to be the bigger person. Until I realized that a person from a privileged community telling me how to deal with oppression was a way of silencing my experience. That it was another form of oppression. Tell me, for how long have we been meeting racism and micro-aggressions with kindness? If kindness is so effective, why are we still dealing with it?
Claiming ignorance is nothing more than an excuse to be hateful. Not once did someone have to sit me down and teach me to respect white people and white-Arabs. So the idea that you have to learn to respect Black people will not fly in my books. And even more insulting is asking a Black person to educate said oppressor. Like what, I’m supposed to say, “Excuse me miss, can you please not try and undermine my experience since you’re not Black? That would be really nice, but only if it’s not too much trouble.” Because that is what anyone who tells me to educate is doing.
The idea that Black/marginalized people need to advocate respectfully for the right to be treated equally is rooted in oppression. I don’t need to be respectful and I will call you out.
This is the consequence of growing up with privilege. You believe that your experience is the only experience and that you are always allowed to share your opinion. Let me do what your parents should have done and hit you with the truth – your opinion does not matter when it is not your experience. When a Black person is speaking about anti-Blackness in the Muslim community, and your melanin isn’t poppin’, no one wants to hear what your thoughts are, boo. Be an ally, sure, but don’t for a second think it’s okay for you to try and question someone’s experience.
It’s not any marginalized person’s place to respect a privileged person’s feelings, opinions or thoughts when the latter is denying the former’s lived experience. And it’s the epitome of privilege and entitlement that any person can think they should be treated with respect after doing so.
And I think there’s this idea that I write to combat anti-Blackness in the Muslim community. And really, you couldn’t be further from the truth.
I write for Black girls like me, whose parents send them to an Islamic school to be safe but instead are subjected to anti-Blackness by the very people who own the school. I write for Black girls like me who are told they are too loud when they are just being children. For the girls who are told that they are too dark by the same people who spend hours in the sun hoping to share their complexion. Who contour and try and accentuate their lips, and aspire to Blackness while denying those born with the same features the right to love them. I write for Black girls who are continuously erased from narratives, both in the Muslim and general community.
By all means, read my work—but I don’t write to educate you. If you learn, that’s wonderful—but nothing I write is to combat your ignorance because that is not my responsibility. No one taught me to respect whiteness, or Arabness, and I will not teach you to respect me. I will demand it. I will take it. I will call you out on it, I will make you uncomfortable and none of it has to do with my desire to combat your ignorance. It is my desire to change any sort of power you have in society and challenge your privilege. It is to show young Black girls that they have the power to silence you.
This is why I write.
I don’t care about privileged people’s feelings or if I’ve hurt them, and I won’t be told to. I care about my niece, and how old she will be when she first experiences anti-Blackness. I care about whether it will be in the mosque, like mine was when I was five. And I care that she will have articles like this to read and remember that she is more powerful than the world will ever permit her to believe.