The Invisible Intersectionality of Black Muslims in the US

After seeing and reading about the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the police, I was quick to delete all my social media apps and hide away from the “uwu Black lives matter posts” I suspected were to follow and the underserving claps white celebrities would get for doing the bare minimum. I needed a break from witnessing the continuous realities of injustice that take place in this country.

As a first-generation Sudanese American, I was nothing but confused and lost in the midst of a growing movement. George Floyd’s murder particulary hit home as the police who were arresting Floyd was responding to a call from an Arab American-owned store. With intersecting identities of being black, Muslim, and Arab, witnessing the anti-blackness rhetoric spew from my religious and ethnic communities clashed with my racial identity and stirred tension and fear in me. It had me questioning what it means to be a black Arab Muslim in this country and what my place is in the Black Lives Matter movement. I often found myself asking, “what is my duty to the black community?”, “Am I too Arab to be black, or am I too black to be Arab?” And “what is my privilege in identifying as Arab and a non-hijabi Muslim?” Black Arabs like me often experience issues with invisible intersectionality, with people often forcing us to “take sides” or strongly reside with one of our identities when it seems fit (you only have to look at how people responded to the Ahmed Mohamed clock incident).

But I have come to the conclusion that my blackness is multifaceted and comprised of being a woman, Muslim, and Arab - all at once, and that’s what makes this unique. Black Arabs are often finding themselves fighting against racial injustice because of our skin color and against the xenophobic and Islamaphobic rhetorics that have only increased since the beginning of the Trump campaign. However, you all have a duty not to ignore the experiences of black Muslim immigrants in this country - like Yassin Mohammed - who was murdered by police in Georgia earlier this month. Say his name and remember him.

Yassin like me is a Sudanese American - he was black, Arab, and a Muslim, although he wasn’t reported or written as such. The media referred to him as a “Muslim man” and yet our Muslim community remained silent. Why? Because it only brings to light the deep and historical roots of racism that are instilled in our community which desperately needs to be addressed. Muslim and Arab Americans have a duty to stand with our black brothers and sisters in times of injustice. They were there for us in supporting Palestinian liberation and with us against the Muslim ban - now it is our turn. Listen to Black Americans and Black civil rights groups about their unique experiences and learn how we can best support our collective struggle against injustice. You have a duty to educate yourself and tackle anti-blackness in your community. As quoted in Surah An-Nisa [4:135], “be persistently standing firm in justice, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives” - support your local CAIR organization and others like the Arab American Action Network and the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative, who are all standing with the Black Lives Matter movement and doing their best to bring all our communities together to end all forms of racism, discrimination, and injustice.

For my fellow Sudanese: this is our fight too. While we must recognize the centuries-long cruelty and pain the African-American community has endured since forcefully coming to this country, and understand that their pain is different from ours, we share the same skin and much of the same discrimination. I can tell you personally, from even the youngest age that I have always been afraid of the police. Why? Because I witnessed the disproportionate amount of cruelty and violence with which people who look like me are treated with.

While our older Sudanese community members will try hard to erase our blackness simply because we have drops of Arab blood, at a tragic reality we have all experienced and witnessed discrimination and racism at the hands of law enforcement. This is hard because of our complicated relationship with race on the fault line of racial consciousness because our country is on the border between Arab and black Africa. However it is, we are BLACK and we need to have conversations about race in our community. We as Sudanese people are not doing enough to eradicate racism and prejudice that exists in our community as well as our Muslim, Arab, and general US society. The next phase in the revolution is to recognize that these issues exist in our Muslim community, come together with black Americans and African-Americans, and create change to take down these systemic institutions that were never designed to protect black and brown folk.

I will continue to do my social media cleanse, but I welcome those who wish to discuss my views and opinions more with me - should you agree or disagree. People who care will know how to reach me. In this time, I am reading, learning, and liberating myself to make a change and I can only ask you to do the same.

There are so much power and knowledge invested in books:

How to be an Anti-Racist by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Dr. by Ibram X Kendi and Jason Reynolds

Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela Y. Davis (HIGHLY recommend to my Muslim and/or Arab folk)

The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley and Malcolm X

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens by Alice Walker

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

Resources for my black Muslims, courtesy of my University’s Muslim Student Association:

The Muslim Anti-Racist Collaborative - deconstructing anti-Blackness within the Muslim community:

Believers Bail Out - re-imagining the prison and police systems through Islamic perspectives:

Sapelo Square - an online forum that places Black Muslims at the center:

Reconstructed Magazine - a creative magazine and conversation space led by Black, Shia, and queer Muslims:

The Black American Muslim - space for Black American Muslims to share testimonials and resources on faith, history, and power:

Justice For Muslims Collective - an organization reimagining a world where radical inclusion leads to collective liberation for Muslim communities and beyond:

Kayla Renée Wheeler, Ph.D. - Islamic Studies Professor who created the BlackIslam syllabus:

Amina Wadud, Ph.D. - African-American scholar on gender and race in Islam. Learn more about her through her interviews here:

Su’ad Abdul Khabeer, Ph.D. - Scholar-Artist-Activist & Author of Muslim Cool:

Islamophobia is Racist Syllabus - resources to understand empire, anti-Muslim racism, and ideology:

For my black friends, I hope you are well and I hope you are safe. I am with you all the way through in our fight for liberation and human rights. Take care of yourself first before anyone else and if you need a minute or more before protesting and educating those around you, take your time, you need it. All the love.

Written by Lama Mohammed