What Does It Mean to Stand at the Intersection of Being Black, Muslim, and Pakistani?

What does it mean to be Black, Muslim, and Pakistani? It is a complex world to navigate, and often results in the feeling of being too foreign for each of the three groups because of your incredibly unique experience. It affects ever part of your being imaginable. Your body dysmorphia may grow bigger and bigger because it was never affirmed that you were a beautiful woman, at least not by other Muslims. The Pakistani kids you grew up with tell you how you’re not a part of their country. At the same time, people do not want to pronounce your name the “Black way”, even though that is how you have always pronounced your name. You feel cut off from each community. Here, I outline my experience of what it means to be at the intersection of these three categories. 

Being, Black, Muslim, and Pakistani is:

1. When you are in the first grade in Islamic school, and every time the kids see a random Black woman, they ask if she’s your mom.

2. When you’re in eighth grade in Islamic school, and the boys decided to write a list rating how pretty the girls in class are. You don’t make it on the list.

3. When your abusive, biologically Pakistani father shames you for having a Black body, and tells you that you are not allowed to wear your hair out in public, because it is frizzy and uncontrollable.

4. When you are 15 and join a youth group at the masjid. One girl in the group says her school is full of Black and Hispanic people. The leader of the youth group turns to the girl and says she is scared for her.

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5. When you stop going to that youth group, and you join a new one, and one girl in your new youth group tells you you look like an Island Girl, thinking it’s a compliment.

6. When some of the girls in your new youth group tell you you’re pretty, but the only other Black girl in the group tells you your natural hair and outfits are just “meh”.

7. When you join your university’s MSA, only to be one of the only Black members who actively attends meetings.

8. When you don’t get invited to Desi weddings, even though you’re Pakistani, too.

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9. When you join your MSA’s Big-Little program, and get paired with a Big who says she wanted to be paired with you because you’re Black, and she finally gets someone to talk about hip-hop with, even though you don’t listen to hip-hop.

10. When you confront some of the girls from MSA in private about how their behavior affects you, only for rumors to spread about what a bitch you are.

11. When your university Chaplain gives you samosas, only for him to say “You know what those are, right?”

12. When your Pakistani hijabi therapist always reminds you that you are Black, even though you are 50% Pakistani. In her eyes, you can never really be Pakistani.


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13. When you hang out with a “friend” before jummah and comment that you are both wearing the same color hijab. You laugh and say you could be twins. She laughs and crinkles her nose in disgust, shaking her head, saying you both look NOTHING alike.

14. When you go to a Pakistani Student Association event with your natural curls and people you have never met before give you dirty looks. A halfie like you is too much for them.

15. When you are at an awards show with the same girl who spread rumors about you. You win an award, appropriately titled the “Challenge Award,” because you have been through things no one has ever dreamed could happen to them. You accept the award, and the girl who spread rumors is standing right behind you, looking like she lost a competition she started.

16. When you work hard on your own self esteem alone, and realize that the world is not built for you — but that’s okay. You realize you can build your own communities, and all of the people who treated you like you were bad, were wrong. Their anti-Blackness was never about you. It was about their feeling threatened that a Black person, someone who’ve they’ve been taught to hate their whole lives, can exist as an equal to them. You can have just as much — and more — than all of the people who made you feel like you were never meant to be there in the first place. You survive trauma after trauma, and yet you still have plans for your life. You want a good life, and a good Hereafter, and Allah is by your side. You know that if you have Allah, you have everything.