In venturing off in my two identities, I have found myself asking those questions that can’t be answered quickly. I saw myself thinking deeply about the issues that I have found in being apart of two different worlds. In embracing Islam, I remember many family-members would often make discriminatory remarks about me being the ‘other’ and being like ‘them’. However, I must understand that I have two intersecting identities that sometimes get confusing for others, including myself. In both identities I value their differences and similarities.
In being Black, I honor the struggle that lies within my race. I value the leaders that has come to venerate the Black spirit and to liberate Blacks/Afrikaans from the shackles of their societies. One of the most enlightening Black leaders in my opinion is Malcolm X. Malcolm X represented a change that many of us haven’t seen in decades or even centuries. He rebelled against a system that was racist and uplifted those in oppression by telling them that they can defeat the system and change their condition. Yes, he was radical. Malcolm X was a radical leader, but he made people see their potential. He made them love themselves in a time in which they were told to hate themselves. It gave rise to a new consciousness for Blacks. It gave them a voice and a motive to strive against the racism that existed in America. I find this quite moving when we talk about an awakening.
However, I understand I am Muslim. In this identity, I find my way of life. I find my purpose. This way of life is quite beautiful and complete. Nonetheless, I can’t say that being Muslim and Black doesn’t create its own nuances. Many Blacks, including other ethnic-groups that being a Black Muslim means you are apart of the NOI (Nation of Islam). And I have to quickly tell people that I am not apart of the NOI. I am a Muslim that belongs to a way of life that is inclusive of all people. I do not believe that one race is better than the other or vice versa. However, I do understand the positive results that did come out of the Black Nationalism movement and Black Power. I will never discredit the movement. Additionally, I believe it’s troubling at some points in telling other Muslims that you are just like them even though you are Black. There’s this unsaid superiority that I see amongst many Muslims and its this superiority of being Arab. Many Muslims deems an Arabic identity as being superior over all over identities that classify themselves as being Muslim. In dealing with this tug-o-war, I find many Muslims adhering to an Arabic way of living. Arabic cultures come with their own distinct way of life similar to any other culture and its people. So, it’s always this fight between being you and having to somehow fit into the majority. And Malcolm X would definitely say that one must have confidence in themselves and seek to place new rules into the game.
In observing these two identities, I have found myself having to accept this reality that I am a Muslim with an Afrikaan background. My roots are entrenched with richness/beauty/pain/hurt/tragedy/accomplishments and etc. Also, in the identity that I have embraced I have met and discovered many other individuals from various cultures that I may have never known before. Being Muslim exposes you to so many different people and cultures that you quickly began to value humanity and diversity in a different light. You see the beauty of the human-population. Nevertheless, in this human-population you find sexism/racism/nationalism and etc which prevents a full submersion within a group or culture. However, these things can be worked out through interactions, telling our personal narratives, placing into the game new rules, and seeking to find a common ground(if possible) with others.
These two intersecting identities are beautiful but trying at time. I am coming to learn that both are important and vital to the person I am and have become. In valuing these two identities I am embracing my full self. And when I embrace my full self I embrace what God has placed before me- a Black Muslim identity.