We Can’t Breathe: An African-American Muslim Mother Speaks

We Can’t Breathe: An African-American Muslim Mother Speaks December 10, 2014

Muslim History Detective’s log, 12/10/14: This is a guest posts from Mahasin Abuwi Aleem, a graduate of Brown University with a major in Political Science. She is a mother, a wife, and a future archivist and librarian, currently working on a Masters in Library and Information Science. She emailed these thoughts to me a few days ago. I asked her permission to share them on my blog.

Late night thoughts:

Mahasin's son Aadam Ibrahim in the garden, doing for self.
Mahasin’s son Aadam Ibrahim in the garden, doing for self.

The older I get, the less I want to share from my soul with those who haven’t earned the right to hear it, or who rather you didn’t disturb their slumber. In any case, sometimes the pain is too deep, the emotions too raw, that your soul testifies regardless. I thought I was doing a good job compartmentalizing recent events until I couldn’t sleep for several nights in a row. The deepest recesses of my being just wouldn’t allow it. My soul was too busy trying to make sense of the evils ravaged against my peoples.

Even while my body rested, my mind struggled to make sense of IT.ALL. And so I dreamed. I dreamed that I too had been chained in the bowels of a ship, covered in my own filth, separated from my children, on the way to a hell that would last for centuries. I called out to God in my sleep, as I struggled to understand the Divine plan in it all.

I am my parents child. They, too, struggled to find meaning in IT.ALL. In the 60s and 70s they abandoned much…family, religion, careers…to become Muslims. In the hope of finding sanity and meaning in IT.ALL. They changed their names and abandoned the “slave” names and markers: markers that had been forced upon their ancestors generations before.

I can’t remember not knowing the history of my people on this soil. And why should I have not known? Why would my parents, my community, have hidden our history from us? After all, we were not the ones who had done any wrong.

As an adult, I’ve learned that discussions about race make some people uncomfortable. I don’t really know what to say about that other than the fact that sometimes the truth hurts. But that’s not a reason to stop telling it.

Black people: I think we must seize the opportunity to rebuild our communities, networks, and neighborhoods that have been systematically destroyed. We have to do for self. We have to uplift those who have lost hope. There are no other options.

Buy Black. Shop Black. Work Black. School Black. As much as we can. Not in opposition to anyone else, but because our survivial depends on it. If not us, then who? Ignore the voices that would dare call us “racist” for doing so. They are not concerned with our survival.

We have to stop buying into the lie that somehow we caused IT.ALL. Others have said it more eloquently that I am, but a suit and tie, or whatever respectable dress is being peddled at the moment, doesn’t change the deeply held belief that our lives are worth less than others.

Sure, be dignified, live with integrity, be upstanding, but not because it’s the cure for anyone else’s racist mind.

I’ve always had friends from diffferent backgrounds. It enriches my life. And at the same time, I will always be authentic in my presentation of who I am: Muslim. African American. Black. Woman.

I don’t ask or expect anyone to censor who they are for me and I don’t censor who I am for anyone else. If that makes anyone uncomfortable, well, that’s not my struggle.

I believe in original human excellence.  I believe that people were created from a pattern of excellence.  I hope that as individuals, and as society, we will begin to work from that pattern.

With Love,

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