As part of a three event series on people of African descent, presented through a collaborative effort by the Campus Y, BSM, MSA, and OASIS, Tae Brown led a panel of Black Muslims to discuss their experiences as they relate to their identity. The three panelists were able to give insight on the life of the average Black Muslim in America, and raise interesting points concerning their view of how they fit within their community.
The most interesting and thought-provoking quote that would essentially define the discussion for the event came when a panelist was asked about where she derives her sense of identity. “I’ve never really felt totally a part of the black community or the Muslim community” she said. While she recognized that she was both a black woman and a Muslim, she felt that she didn’t completely belong within either community.
The discussion that followed was very surprising to me. Several of the panelists shared experiences wherein they were rejected from the communities with which they identify in various ways. One panelist told a story about how he was berated as a child in a mosque by adult Muslims because he was black. Another panelist spoke about how Islam is racialized to the Arab world, so American society dismisses black Muslims.
These discussions came as somewhat of a surprise to me; they showed that discrimination and racial bias exist, in some ways more severely, outside of relations between white people and other races. Furthermore, it highlighted a severe cultural bias and a system of Arab supremacy within Islam, which extends to the United States and causes segregation within the religion, where some mosques are predominantly black or African American, some are predominantly Middle Eastern, and some are predominantly South Asian. These prejudices within the religion were not something I was aware of, and it was enlightening to hear about these students’ perspectives.
It is very important to hear about the problems that exists within communities outside of your own, and I very much appreciate that I was able to gain the perspective I did from attending this event. I believe the most useful weapon against discrimination is information, and events such as these are therefore essential for promoting social justice.