I am Muslim. I am Black. I am a woman.
I like to call it the triple threat, though more often than not, it simply means that my experiences in America are compounded thrice over, for better or for worse. I experienced hope in seeing the nationwide mourning of Muhammad Ali, then fear as Islamophobic rhetoric intensified after the Pulse massacre. I experienced a feeling of satisfaction and community on the eve of Eid-ul-Fitr, and I woke up to death, sorrow, and despair.
Alton Sterling was murdered by police officers on July 5. I spent Eid in a bittersweet state of celebration, trying to listen to a khutbah that spoke about unity, joy, and celebration while my people were taking to the streets. That night, as I scrolled through my twitter feed for updates on the case, the Facebook video that went live in the aftermath of the shooting of Philando Castile flashed across my timeline. I was devastated, angry, and suddenly overwhelmed with a feeling of exhaustion.
I saw the Eid selfies and the Eid Mubarak’s feeling largely disconnected. I could not celebrate. I could not fathom how I was to be experiencing a sense of community while I was once again reminded that I, as a Black woman, was not considered an equal in my American community. I was reminded of my race when I saw a sea of faces that looked nothing like mine, smiling and wishing me a happy Eid without a second thought as to the inner turmoil I was feeling. I was once again reminded of my identity as a Black woman, as I live in fear of becoming a Rekia Boyd, who was shot by Chicago police in the back of the head. Or that I will raise an Aiyana Stanley-Jones, the 7 year old girl murdered in her sleep by police during a no knock raid. They got the wrong house. I live in fear of raising a black son who will become a Tamir Rice, robbed of life at 12 years old, during a police drive-by while he was playing in the park with a toy gun. Or maybe I will raise his sister, who rushed to him after he was shot, and was tackled to the ground by police.
To the nation, #blacklivesmatter is new. This movement seemed to have popped up out of the ‘recent’ killings of black men, women, and children at the hands of police officers. African people were ripped from their country of birth, their history, and their future, and brought to America to be the bodies and the blood and the tears that built this country. They were raped and tortured, robbed of their religion and their language, and torn apart from their families. They were told it was manifest destiny. After the end of slavery, they were thrust into an era of lynching, of Jim Crow laws, of segregation and inequality. They were told it was the order of things. After the civil rights movement, they were told that there was nothing more to ask for. That racism had been abolished. That the last vestiges of discrimination had been purged from society and the government.
To survive, to find solace, to find a way to feel joy, I and so many other Black people turn to each other. We celebrate in our blackness, our culture, our joy, and our beauty. We gather in our homes, or with our friends, or more often than not, in our religious communities. Islam is the most diverse and the fastest growing religion in the world. We celebrate diversity in rich ways, in our cultural dress, in our traditional foods, and in our ways of celebrating and worshiping and gathering. Where we fail, is our tendency to selectively grieve.
“The parable of the believers in their affection, mercy, and compassion for each other is that of a body. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever.” – Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
It makes me angry, disappointed, though mostly sad to see my Muslim friends and coworkers able to drown out the pain, sorrow, and grief of their Black brothers and sisters with a lifetime prescription of painkillers: apathy, willful ignorance, or an egregious classification of Black Muslims as ‘them’ and not ‘us’ It makes me sad not for myself, but for my Ummah, my Muslim community. To see that we can be comfortable going down a path that ignores a very visible, very painful discrimination against one of our own. It makes me sad to see my Ummah splitting apart at the seams, content to focus on only ‘their’ issues.
This piece though, is not one to condemn those who are silent. It is to share my pain and my sorrow. It is to remind my Ummah that to have tunnel vision is to create a doomed future. It is to remind my Ummah that taking painkillers does nothing to drive out the cause of the pain. Black Muslims are facing systemic racism, state-sanctioned murder of their communities, and a political climate that seems to be embracing intolerance rather than seeking to eradicate it. We must focus on the hurt that has been rampant so long in the Black community, lest that hurt spread to the rest of the Muslim community. To beat the bigotry, the intolerance, the racism, and the hate, we need the entire community to stand up and stand behind Black people in America. We must say, loud and clear, that Black lives matter, and that we, as Muslims, will not stand for state-sanctioned murders of thousands of Black people.
For I will not give up on my Ummah for my blackness. Nor my blackness for my Ummah.
By Taqwa Brookins