I know about jack and shit about being black, or being Muslim, but last night I went to an event organized by college students about black Muslims (called Black Muslim Legacy). I would assume most white Americans like me don’t know a whole lot about Muslims, who have been stereotyped by our current president to imply they’re all, at least potentially, violent extremists. I saw no violent extremists.
Here is what I saw:
About 200 kids, 18-22 or so. There were girls wearing head scarfs and they were taking selfies and sending snaps to friends, and some were wearing jeans jackets, which I thought was out of style, but I don’t know. They had Nike shoes and some of the boys wore flannel shirts. The girls waxed their eyebrows, just like almost all young girls do, to fit in. They were the same as me at that age, except we had phones with cords on them and pictures took two weeks to develop.
At the event, we ate some food and speakers talked about the history of black Muslims in the U.S. Muslims have been in the U.S. since at least the 1600s. We’ve always been here together, and still are: today there are 3.3 million Muslims living in the United States.
Students talked about people today who inspire them—people who they can look up to, like the fashion model Mariah Idrissi, who wears a head scarf and is a practicing Muslim.
I saw a performance of Capoeira, which is an old Brazilian martial art that looks like dancing so that Brazilian slaves could practice kicking ass in secret when the time came.
I watched them pray in a language I didn’t understand, and it sounded to me like they were saying “Amen” every once in awhile.
Here is one thing: When I showed up to this event, I stopped at the door, got nervous and almost left. I walked away 30 steps and stopped, turned around. I saw tons of brown kids wearing head scarfs and other clothes that didn’t match my clothes. I was a minority, outnumbered, and that made me momentarily uncomfortable. But that, of course, is when you know you need to buck up, and be open. Plus, they were just kids, so I stopped being a wimp. Once inside, there were more than a handful of white college kids there to learn, too. That was really nice to see.
Here is something: just the fact that they hold this event--this alone to me is telling.
White people aren’t really meeting up and supporting each other and talking about their struggles, right? About who inspires them, or by performing spoken word about the prejudices they face every day, etc. I mean, if they are, it’s usually some kind of hate group, the KKK being the best-known example. Or maybe a book club, or poker or something.
And if you look at white people’s history, it’s generally just us moving around from one place to another. We were in England, then we were in America, but for the most part we weren’t as a whole really persecuted that badly or forced to go. I mean, we had some pretty shitty kings, but overall, white people have had it pretty good.
So my good thing was just learning, and opening up my mind a little, getting to know things that maybe make me a little uncomfortable.