I’ve been Muslim all my life. Black too. And you know what? It’s been an enjoyable experience. I have put love into the world and felt that love returned by people who do and don’t look and believe like me. Though I developed an early awareness of the injustices against black people and Muslims, I didn’t carry that weight on my person. I remember being very aware of institutionalized racism yet still free, totally unencumbered. To be sure, I didn’t live in a bubble of kumbaya and “I don’t see color.” I had (have) the fire of X, Tubman, Garvey and Turner running through my veins, but I also felt comfortable and unafraid to be myself, in any setting. Not sure how that happened, but I needed it.
Now that I have children of my own, I’m hoping to raise them with that same dynamic duo of awareness and freedom. But it’s harder now. Social media thrusts countless HD, surround sound images of blacks and Muslims being mistreated, abused and killed on a daily basis. This isn’t something new (though I do think the presence of a black man in the White House has pushed some white people outside of their sanity), but it hits harder and rings louder. And still I want my kids to be free.
My fear is that they will trade in their soft and plushy childhoods for a hardened and jagged fear that will grow them up too soon and chop down their blooming sense of self-worth. I don’t want my children to be scared that the police will kill them, or that their peers with pick on them, or that their teachers will dislike them … or that their school projects will be mistaken for bombs. I don’t want them to stress over the judgments and glares they may get from random passersby. I don’t want them to carry with them the dark clouds of someone else’s hatred and ignorance, someone else’s assumptions and misinformation. There’s no freedom in that. Children need freedom.
So I sat quiet when my first grader came home talking about the story of Thanksgiving. I’ll drop that truth on her a little later. And I was really vague when answering her questions at the vigil for Our Three Winners. I’ll give her more details later. And I get really selective when she asks about protests and why people are so angry. All answers in due time, but for now they need protection. Especially my daughter, the 6-year-old. She has an old soul and feels things deeply. My son is totally consumed with his toy cars and securing his next meal, but my daughter’s eyes and ears are open. This is a child that gets teary eyed during touching commercials. She has such an open heart and a precocious mind. As much as I like to have real, heart-felt discussions with her (and I do have them), some things I just can’t say. I can’t tell her that her bright eyes and warming smile may not overpower the (perceived) threat of her skin and religion. Not yet. Regardless of what she can or can’t handle, I’m not ready to take that peace from her. I prefer not to rob my children. I need them to be free.
But the time is coming when she’ll be rooted enough for me to pop that bubble. I feel it. I see it in her eyes and hear it in her conversation. Son, too, will reach that point. Then I’ll be able to show them an unveiled world, full of good and bad, without fear for their freedom.
Editor’s Note: Nadirah Angail is a family therapist turned blogger from Kansas City, Mo. In 2006, she began working as a therapist with a wide variety of families and couples who suffered from issues ranging from depression and drug addiction to infidelity and marital discord. In 2009, she had her first child and decided to (temporarily) leave the professional world to focus on motherhood and writing. She has self-published two books and enjoys writing about relationships, family, parenting, and her particular perspective as a Black American Muslim woman. Learn more at nadirahangail.com and strugglinghijabi.tumblr.com or @Nadirah_Angail. The views expressed here are her own.