I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m a white, able bodied, second generation college student who was raised in a middle class suburban family.
I’m well aware of the privilege that comes with that. I know.
At the same time, I’m a working class, covered Muslim, female with some mental health issues.
The intersections of privilege are strange, because although I’m white, both Arabs and non-Arabs think that I AM Arab. People walk up to me and start speaking in Arabic, and are shocked when I say, “I don’t speak Arabic”. People walk up to me and tell me to “go home”, so obviously they think I’m from somewhere other than Detroit.
I’ll tell you what I know: Arab and Muslim are not synonymous, but to the vast majority of the North American population, they are. People see scarf, they think Arab. These knee-jerk reactions don’t take into account skin color, ethnicity, or any other physical appearance. I know there is a difference between skin color (unchangeable) and clothing (changeable), but when clothing is religiously oriented it can blur that line.
Now, how does that knowledge transfer into conversations around POC?
I found this post in a Facebook group:
I provided a comment that went something along the lines of, “I’m not a POC, but I am a covered Muslim woman who is commonly presumed to be Arab. Muslim women often are viewed as sexually repressed, inexperienced, or completely submissive. People also feel like they have a right to know “what’s under that dress”, even though I wear it to control who is allowed to see it. I don’t generally take too much offense, and try to let things roll off my shoulders.”
The OP promptly told me I was outside the limits of the post, and should not have commented. The exchange continued with me explaining that they had specified “presumed ethnicity”, in which was where I took the liberty to make my comment and clearly identified that in my comment. The moderators said that was all fine and wonderful, but it was only intended to mean mistaken identities WITHIN POCs, not including people who are mistaken for POCs, and that if I wanted to share my story it should have been in another post.
I took down my comment, and created a new post. Shortly thereafter, I realized I was blocked from the group and can no longer access it.
So, as someone who has some privilege (white) and apparently the wrong disadvantage (Muslim), I don’t get a voice.
The moral is: sometimes being too focused on “inclusive” aspects can alienate other underrepresented voices with the same problems. Are issues facing non-Arab Muslim women by any more valid or less presumptuous than other groups? I wanted to join in a conversation to not only share my experiences, but also to learn from others.
Your experiences are valid, and I will always listen, hear, and love you. I am a safe place for you, even if we do not align completely. Perspective, diversity, and unrestricted love is welcome in my life, with open arms.