I Love who I Have Become
The pandemic has been emotionally overwhelming and transformative – both for personal and professional reasons. There was so much uncertainty about the future and our agency in how we could lead our lives that it was really important to deal with the situation head on. COVID-19 has claimed the lives of many family members and loved ones, including that of my own mother, and has resulted in the end of my most important romantic relationship to date.
The global Black Lives Matter movement was also life-rearranging. As a queer, Black Arab woman, it made me re-consider mine and my family’s experience with race in the Middle East. It was a painful journey but also a journey of healing. I felt shame and guilt for having internalized the limitations of my potential as a Black human being, and of the value I had attached to some attributes bestowed on me: Nilotic features, lighter skin, the professional background of my parents, not looking like some expected Africans to look and similar racist rhetoric. I felt shame and guilt for being grateful for my privileges and doing nothing to ensure these were extended, to other people of African descent, especially black people of African descent across the Middle East. I decided to start the Black Arabs Collective (BAC) because I knew there was a wide range of people, like me, of Black African descent, and that it was important to talk about race in the Middle East and across the Arab world. Social change starts with us, but before we demand the change, we must first understand ourselves and what we need to change in ourselves.
This activism required real commitment and helped keep me sane, so I quit my job and decided to focus on it fully, leaving a steady income to face what was happening to me. I was aware that I had had an inferiority complex when I was younger but thought I had left it behind. The BAC movement made me realize I was still damaged, that I have carried the trauma of racism within me
My family is Muslim and extremely conservative. Dealing with and accepting my queerness meant that I have been in and out of therapy for some years. I felt, and still feel, that I need to protect my family’s honor and hide who I am. I had to distance myself from them and it was always oh so painful. But although I love my family and my culture, I disagree with their morals.
I plan to continue working in public service because I want to live in a world where things are different, where I can fully exist and not feel alien. Not limited in my freedom to speak about queer and Black people’s rights and my own safety.
I am no longer ashamed. I am not insecure about things that are beyond me. I am proud of my body regardless of my weight. I lead with kindness and compassion. I love who I have become. #BlackArabMuslim #BlackLivesMatter #LGBTQI
“The Anti-Racism Policy Journal is happy to partner with Collateral Benefits and Manos Visibles to bring you “Voices of the African Diaspora”, a series of perspectives from Afro-descendants across the world on surviving, overcoming, and transcending COVID-19. Collateral Benefits is a platform that through perspective papers aims to lift up the voices of African and Afro-descendant people from all walks of life so that their intellect, wisdom, and experiences can contribute to and shape the global conversations on the critical issues of our time.”
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