The Carnival goes up this Friday, the 22nd, inshAllah.
The White Privilege & the Ummah Carnival: What Does it Mean to You, Them and Us?* *Them is non-Muslims, Us is the Ummah
Submissions (ideally) Due Wednesday May 20th but will keep adding as you come along, inshallah. Please leave a link if you put up a post on your blog, thanks.
For a hot minute I was worried that I would never get around to doing this, but I’m glad it did take me this long as I have had a chance to germinate some ideas that I would have otherwise not had time to ponder.
The idea for taking a closer look at white privilege in the ummah came from a comment discussion with Jamerican Muslimah. At that time, I had mostly only thought about my white privilege in terms of how mine was revoked when I joined a religious minority (in the US) and put a little square of cloth over my head. **(I recognize now that my privilege was not revoked, but it certainly felt that way). I think this experience must be quite shocking for most new Muslimas and especially for white women who had taken so much for granted in western societies.
I have mostly worked from home since I began covering and so when I did interact with society, as a Muslima, it was mostly fairly superficial, such as running errands and taking the kids to the park–where the other mommies don’t talk to me so much anymore. When I recently went back to school, I was quite shocked at the treatment I perceived that I was getting from my peers and professors to the point where I actually thought I may be getting a little paranoid or developing some kind of social anxiety disorder. Finally, I did an experiment where for the first several meets of my winter courses I fully “hijabed” in a cap and scarf to class, and sure enough it wasn’t me, it was them.
Anyhoo, I digress. You see, this white privilege carnival could very easily be a giant rantfest about how if feels to have your white privilege card revoked **(or seemingly so), and though that could be very self-satisfying, I think there is a possibility for this endeavor to be much more thought-provoking.
The White Privilege and The Ummah carnival will be open to all Muslimas—white, passing, woc, converts, indigenous Muslimas, 1.5 generation, etc. ** I was thinking just Muslimas, but will include brothers too. The topic is widely open to your interpretation and even rants about the loss of privilege are welcome. Here are a few starter ideas to get things going:
Jamerican had made these suggestions:
- Something I’d love to see a White Muslim woman blog about-confronting their White privilege in the larger society (suddenly becoming the ‘other’)
- And also within the Muslim community (being the sought after White woman)
- Using Muslim community White privilege to dictate norms to other- brown- Muslim women
That bit about “dictating norms to other-brown-Muslim women” immediately raised some eyebrows, and I don’t think I would have been able to see those dynamics prior to her mentioning it, so inshallah I will try to address that somewhat in my post, but hope other folks will give it some good thinking about.
It is fairly well known how sought after white Muslimas are, but I don’t necessarily think this works out well for many sisters. It would be nice to hear about these sort of experiences from a first-person perspective.
It would also be good to hear about:
- Being a white Muslima amongst the Muslims in the lands of the Muslims. Is it easier to go abroad? Are we treated better?
- The Great Equalizer? How does being Muslim affect race relations?
- Extra-attention/sensitivity doled out to the White shahada.
- How does class continue to affect white Muslims? What are the differences in experiences between white privilege for upper/middle class white Muslims and working-poor/poor white Muslims?
- Maintaining or discarding White American cultural norms. Fact Observation: Many white people are not trustworthy and they are arrogant—does that change or remain when we become Muslim?
When I initially shopped this thing around, I got a wide range of responses including that white privilege doesn’t exist and also that white privilege ceases to exist once a white person becomes Muslim. I don’t agree with either of those positions, but I would include posts written from those angles as all opinions are valid.
For those of my siblings who are in doubt that white privilege does exist, I would like to share a couple my experiences with recognizing my privilege from my jilhaliya.
When I was in my early twenties, myself and another prospective renter where looking at a fabtabulous studio to rent in a not-so-desirable neighborhood (the Tendernob/Upperloin). As we stood in front of the bay windows and the apartment manager gave as all the details, I remember thinking that I “had it.” The other prospect was a middle-aged Asian man with a noticeable accent. Though I suspected he probably made more money than me, he would probably do less damage to the place than me, and he would probably actually pay the last month’s rent rather than use the deposit—I knew I would get the apartment, and I did.
A few months later I was taking a train trip across the country. I was awakened to an announcement that we had crossed some state line and law enforcement officials would be randomly checking people’s luggage for contraband. Immediately two officers entered the car and started slowly moving down the isle towards me. In my backpack, stowed at my feet, was a cache of illegal material—to my relief, the officers didn’t even seem to look at me–instead they went straight to the two black men a few seats behind me. I didn’t know what it was called, but I knew right then that I had it.
Need more explanation? Peggy McIntosh has written an excellent article that illustrates what it is, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Please go read the whole article; here are a few from the list of 26 privileges. I have crossed out those that were revoked when I began wearing hijab:
1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
2. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area, which I can afford and in which I would want to live.
3. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.
4. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.
5. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.