Black Muslim Women Resist Erasure by Womanist

Black Muslim Women Resist Erasure by Womanist January 13, 2018

black muslim

By Layla Abdullah-Poulos

When navigating and addressing issues of social justice, mistakes happen. Even knowledgeable people will make errors or have lapses in judgment resulting in instances of social and cultural insensitivity and trauma. The more competent seek to rectify their offenses and learn best how to avoid them in the future.

double downThis week on Twitter, Black Muslim women addressed the continual erasure of African American and Black Muslim experiences by their fellow Blacks and challenged Black resistance culture to appreciate the complicated intersections they navigate.

Author and autism advocate Umm Juwayriyah brought attention to erasure language in an article by C.C. Saunders, wherein the Black womanist referenced Muslims in a manner that aligns with the prevailing Middle Eastern South Asian (MESA) categorization, thereby discounting the existence of Black Muslims.

Saunders was primarily railing against skin tone favoritism in hip-hop, but she made a statement that alienates Blackness from Muslimness:

“white media functions to illustrate Cardi B, as they do the LBGT community, those of Mexican ancestry and those of Muslim faith– as bearing a subjugation far worse that any black person– deeming the reference groups more worthy of central placement than black bodies.”

By juxtaposing “Muslim faith” against “black person” and “black bodies,” Saunders engages in something to which Black Muslim women have particularly become increasingly observant.

Black Muslim women took exception and alerted the writer:

Humans navigating multiple subjugated social intersections (race, faith, gender, ability, sexuality, etc.) tend to encounter layers of insensitivity and callousness by people sharing those spaces with them. 

Black Muslim women have been proficient at highlighting problematic behavior stemming from non-Black Muslims, Black Muslim men and White women, so it’s should only be expected that we offer Black non-Muslim men and women opportunities to recognize when they are symbolically violent and remedy accordingly.  

Unfortunately, instead of identifying her cultural shortsightedness, Saunders became defensive and dismissive:

Womanist punk (2)

Her reply conveyed to Black Muslim women that she was not inclined to hold herself accountable for her oversight and was not ready to engage in any kind of restorative actions.

She also confirmed a limited knowledge about Black Muslim identity and attempted to enforce her hegemonic conclusions they should define themselves. 

Black Muslim women responded to shed a lens on Saunders’ disdainful position and why it is socially damaging to discourses about identity and intersections of oppression.

Margari Aziza pointed out how Saunders’ inattention to the relationship between race and faith results in tangible problems for Black Muslims:

Finally, the writer punked out, blocked Black Muslim women and decided that any enlightening information provided by them was not worthy of her “womanist” time.

Umm so much

Saunders apparently prioritized ego and maintaining a facade of correctness over recognizing any required accountability or necessary restorative actions.  She created a barrier to positions that didn’t jibe with hers, behavior typical in what Kimberly Foster calls “drag and cancel culture.”marginalize

She behaved in a way that is counterintuitive to her moniker “womanistwriter” as well as the objective of womanism – the wholeness and well-being of all humanity.

Black (esp. African American) Muslims have extensive heritages and social capital that many seem primed to expunge from social and cultural discourse. We must remain vigilant in resisting marginalizing behavior and actions across social intersections.

Follow Layla Abdullah-Poulos and NbA Muslims


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