As a child, I was reticent and passive-aggressive. Al Humduillah, I grew up and started speaking up for myself. As I talk to my younger brother about his middle school experience, I can’t help but sit back and reflect on my utterly different experience.
One memory that has been sticking out is the time I had a substitute teacher in Music. I don’t have too many fond memories of middle school. It was an awkward adjustment period in my life. Wearing the hijab and a modest uniform did not help the situation either.
He was an older Black American man, really laid back, and most students loved him. He was leading a discussion about Music that our parents play in the car. So everyone is participating and having fun, cracking jokes. I attempt to participate, but he cuts me off before I get a complete sentence out. Informing me that I’m foreign and my people don’t listen to regular Music.
I was way too shy and quiet to speak up and say, “no, I’m black. I am just Muslim”. At that point, I remember feeling so embraced and a sense of not belonging anywhere. I desperately wanted to blend in and not always stick out as different. Now I realize how idiotic and toxic the statement indeed was.
Instead of embracing me and taking the opportunity to potentially learn about a new culture, he just shot me down because I didn’t appear “black enough .” The saddest part is he’s not the only person who’s made me feel that way. Even though I grew up in a black community, I still was made to feel like a minority amongst my own people.