Thoughts From a Black Hijabi

Original art by Chioma Ebinama

A couple of days ago, I had a conversation with a close family member about the reality of being Black and Muslim in America. We also talked about the increased representation through media platforms. Just peep the pages on Tumblr and Instagram dedicated to uplifting black folks and people of color. The past couple of years has even shown a high demand for modest fashion and hijabi models. Even big brands are striving for intersectionality in their advertisements (we know this is in fact capitalism just profiting off of culture capital). Nevertheless, you would be fooled to think we live in a society that has finally become accountable of their long history of white supremacy.

However, visibility in no way means we are progressing. I’m reminded of this every time a marginalized group is attacked. As a Black Muslim hijabi (women/girls who wear the hijab). I am a visible representation of what white supremacy vows to destroy. I’ll be completely real, prior to wearing the hijab I too prescribed to the idea that if I conceal any visible sign of being Muslim in some way that would protect me. As a black person, there is just a common expectation to deal with racism. Not realizing the real issue is white supremacy itself but I digress. As many have said before, it is one thing to be Black but then being Black and [insert identity],that just increases the risks of being targeted.

Wearing the hijab has brought a roller coaster of emotions and of course unwarranted invitations to discuss Islam with bigots. The hijab in recent decades has been a tool for both sides on the political spectrum to express their Islamophobia. Whether it is white liberals showing how white feminism can rescue the “oppressed” Muslim women or the government’s weak attempts in creating policies to oppress the Muslim population. Or even just a cashier and everyone else asking me hundreds of questions about Islam like I have “Muslim spokesperson” written across my forehead. It is clear that Islamophobia just like any other sentiment of hate will and has threatened the lives of people. It does not cross my mind that I can easily be assaulted. Even worse, the reality that no repercussions will come after it. In this society, there is no room to be a victim when you are black. There is no room to sympathize with Muslims. So where do you think that leads me?

“From 2014 to 2016, anti-Muslim bias incidents jumped 65 percent. In that two-year period, CAIR finds that hate crimes targeting Muslims surged 584 percent

After hearing the despicable murder of a 17 -year old Black Muslim girl, Nabra Hassanen, it brought back that fear again. According to an annual report by the Council on American-Islamic Affairs (CAIR), reported that “from 2014 to 2016, anti-Muslim bias incidents jumped from 65 percent.” it also states, “In that two-year period, hate crimes targeting Muslims surged 584 percent”. I don’t even have the energy to insert the stats on the daily crimes committed towards Black folks. This data is alarming, however does not show how many of the cases even ended up in a conviction of the attacker. I have come accustom to the fact that all my identities are under attack but I refuse to be silenced in fear of bigots. I choose to be unapologetically me and embrace all my identities. This post is not about what we as marginalized groups can do to appease racists. Wearing this hijab on this beautiful black skin is a reminder of the resistance against white supremacy.

Nonetheless, visibility will never be the ultimate solution. We must be blunt in the eradication of bigotry. The enemy is and will always be white supremacy. Regardless if Nike comes out with sports hijabs or we have news outlets that are created by Muslim women. So yes, let’s pray for those who have been victims. Continue to have faith in humanity but understand your “love conquers all” motto will not save you. Telling those of us who are at risk of white terrorism to use “precaution when going places” or “extra security” for our mosques, is a deflection from the real issue. Understand that expecting marginalized groups to have the “forgiving spirit” whenever there is an attack against us puts folks in danger. We have to be clear, we are fighting against those who enable, support and protect white supremacy.