Big Girls Need Fun Too…

September 28, 2007

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Though some people seem to think they are undeserving of it.  Unfortunately, this often includes big girls themselves.

There were several very large girls at my college.  From what I could see, all of them pretty much went to class, the dining hall, and back to their rooms.  They didn’t go out to eat, didn’t go to the mall, didn’t even participate in campus activities.  They all seemed to walk with their heads slightly down.  All of them but one.

Kim didn’t walk, she strode.  Her head was high, her shoulders were back, and she would look you in the eye with confidence.  She was active in campus clubs, even volunteering to host a traveling group of male singers when they came to perform at our school.  She was amazing, unique in her ability to remain relatively unaffected by societal messages about the worth of heavy women.  She wasn’t delusional, mind you.  She knew that her weight was unhealthy, and severely restricted her date potential besides.  So yeah she was going to aerobics and drinking her water, but she didn’t put her life on hold.  She didn’t feel like she should wait until she was smaller to socialize, to go out, to have fun.  To be worthy of those things.

She acted like she was worthy, and most people treated her accordingly.  There’s a lesson in that:  don’t wait until you have a certain image to value yourself.  You can enjoy life in the meantime, while you are on the journey to get that degree/26 inch waist/clear skin/whatever.  The time to be happy can be now.

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Confident Muslimas are Scary

September 26, 2007

RiveterAnd  annoying. 

Mine is a fairly new blog.  I have only been at this for a few months now.  I am not terribly controversial, or so I thought.  So imagine my surprise when I attracted a troll with my early posts, “Dive In” and “Muslimas Must Be Drab”.  This blue-haired pencil-topper told me I looked like a “jacka**” (they assumed the photo accompanying “Dive In” is me, it is not) and suggested I “submit like a good little muslima” with the encouragement to have my, um, nether regions clipped while I was at it. 

What did I do to attract such vitriol? Had I called anyone a kaffir? Accused scarf-less women of being loose? Did I call for the closure of movie theaters and the eradication of fluffy bunnies and ice cream from the face of the earth?  What was my crime?

Simple.  What is so offensive about me is that I am a happy, confident muslim woman leading a comfortable life (masha’allah).  I forgot that I am supposed to be oppressed.  I am supposed to be married to a wife-beating tyrant instead of a caring, supportive husband.  I’m supposed to be suffering under a burqa instead of  skipping around town in a fashionable tunic set and scarf.  How dare I write about planning to go on vacation and enjoy the water?  What nerve of me to show that I have a brain and I will use it.  I am supposed to bow and scrape before all that is male after all!

You see, the only way some people, women in this instance, can feel good about themselves is vis a vis the perceived lower position of other women.  That’s why you’ll sometimes see a trim woman seemed a little pissed that a fat woman has a cute husband.  Because after all, fat women aren’t supposed to be able to attract a quality man.  In the same way, if your life is pretty miserable for whatever reason, it might make you feel better to think to yourself “Well at least I’m not a muslim woman.  Those poor, sexually mutilated, oppressed things!”

And so, O ye troll, whose comments I deleted.  I’m sorry that you feel lacking in some area of your life.  I’m sorry that the concept of a happy and confident muslim woman makes your world spin off of it’s axis.  But if you’re looking to find a pitiful specimen to make yourself feel better, keep looking.  Because you’re not going to find her here.  Masha’allah.

wedI’ll be honest.  When someone first told me about Evia’s blog (http://www.bfinterracialmarriage.blogspot.com) I thought it was an interesting but odd idea.  How could someone write an entire blog on the subject?  How much could you possibly say?  You met a nice guy who was white, you hit it off, you got married, now you’re in happily ever after.  End of story.

 Needless to say as I read her and Halima’s (http://www.dateawhiteguy.blogspot.com  –everytime I see the URL I crack up, it’s an interesting site though) blog I found that I had been mistaken.  The myths, for one thing.  I never knew that so many black women didn’t think that white men saw them as attractive.  I had heard the “white men just want black women for sex” thing, but I didn’t know that any appreciable number of black women wouldn’t even give a white guy a chance to show himself honorable.  So many black men just want sex from black women too, but is seems that is not a consideration. 

I was largely unaware of the “black women’s lot in life is to suffer” programming.  I used to read Essence when I lived with my mom (her subscription) but alot of the messages slid right off of me due to the way I had been raised.  Besides that I’m just too selfish to give and give and give (and give) and get nothing in return.  I have neither the energy nor the inclination to “build-a-man”.  If you don’t have your stuff together, motivation and vision for your life, I don’t see how I can give that to you.  A woman can complement, encourage, and support a man.  But he has to be a man first, she can’t raise him.

I’ve never seriously entertained the “dating/marrying anyone but a black man makes you a sell-out” notion.  But apparently this has been a paralyzing fear for many women.  It just goes on and on. There are issues artificially limiting the mate pool for black women. 

So I hope Halima and Evia blog on.  I’ll continue with my own perspective on things, although my blog is not exclusively about interracial marriage.  Question for my readers out there (all 15 of you, lol).  Do you remember your first thought when you heard about interracial relationship blogs?  How do you feel about them now?  I’m interested in your views.

A Classic post from CreoleinDC.  Excellent advice sure to yield postive results insha’allah. http://creoleindc.typepad.com/rantings_of_a_creole_prin/2006/08/how_to_get_and_.html

cholera.gifThis is the assertion put forth by the author of Ruminations of a Racial Realist.  This post has to do with why black people must resist assimilation.  http://racialrealist.wordpress.com/2007/09/02/why-we-must-resist-assimilation/ At first I thought it was odd that “assimilation” in this instance referred largely to being near large numbers of white people.  But it isn’t their presence but what she sees as the result. In sum, she believes that being near white people has a deleterious effect and that black people need to live and work with other blacks, stop “chasing” white people for marriage (that one was funny), and work together to analyze and eliminate our problems.

Now, as a muslim what stuck out to me on first read was this statement “And what about Malcolm X?  After his famous trip to Mecca, and his interactions with white Arabs, he changed his perspective on black-white relations, which arguably contradicted everything he used to stand for…I am confident that had Malcolm lived he would have revised the opinions he formed before he died (when he was obviously under extreme stress).”

It’s just a pity that he embraced actual islam and rejected NOI’s religion.  Apparently not viewing white people as inherently evil is a bad thing.  *Insert eyeroll here*

I’m just going to say that I disagree with that assertion.  I’m glad he became muslim before going to the grave.

However, there is truth to the notion that some black people do believe, deep down, that white people are better/smarter/more moral whatever.  Sometimes they will make statements that reveal this thinking.
The owner of a black business where I used to work came in one day blustering and fussing about a man that tried to rip him off at an auto repair shop.  “And it was a black guy!” He fumed.  Immediately a woman near me said: “That’s why I don’t do business with black people.  My lawyer, my accountant, they’re all white.”  My jaw was on the floor but I was even more aghast when everyone around chimed their agreement that you can’t trust black people.  I wanted to point out the melanin content of everyone in the room and ask should we all get away from each other since black people were so darn terrible.  However I was the most junior staffer and I needed that job, so I kept my mouth shut. 

And how many times have you heard black people lamenting this or that shortcoming of black america, finishing their argument with “You don’t see white people doing that!”

Though I am not a segregationist by any means, I understand that there are alot of people that would benefit from living in a majority black neighborhood, going to majority black schools with black teachers, etc.  Of course merely being in an ethinically homogenous environment would not help.  If it did, then I don’t think Clare would have made the post since may black people live in such a situation already, at least in America.  It needs to be a positive environment with strong leadership, worthy goals and a clear direction.  One of Clare’s commenters, Khadija shared her experiences living in a neighborhood that, while remaining black, experienced a change from being safe to being a dangerous place.

There is a similar argument made for the need and benefits of women’s colleges.  (http://www.womenscolleges.org/news/yes.htm) In a world where maleness is still seen as the default gender of leadership and intelligence, a place where most of the leaders are women is a strong teaching tool.  After 2-4 years at an institution where the president, most of deans and teachers are women.  Where every president of every student organization is a woman, and things wonderful things get accomplished in an organized fashion, all by women.  It is a strong antidote to previous cultural conditioning.  Women’s colleges boast a dispropotionate number of graduates that go on to obtain higher degrees and great success in their chosen fields.

It stands to reason that similar parallels can be made about some black people and black children especially.  Black children need to be exposed on a regular basis to black leaders and achievers.  I think an even more concerted effort needs to be made these days due to the negative influence of electronic media. 

I am blessed in that when I was growing up, my parents brought me along to meetings and events held by their black professional associations.  I would sit quietly and observe these men and women discussing issues, making and executing plans, and celebrating their successes. They would take us to black and african history lectures.  My dad loved history and always had black history tomes in our bookcases.  Shows such as “For the People” would play regularly in our home.

My parents never expressed thoughts like the one voiced by my co-workers and boss that day.  I didn’t grow up with a message of “black people aren’t good enough.”  I realize now that is because my parents made a conscious effort throughout my child and young adulthood.  Some people’s parents never made that effort, and they never made the effort to “deprogram” themselves when they reached adulthood.  And so I can’t completely dismiss the post.  Some people probably do need to be re-educated before they can function normally around any group of people.  But being near white people is not bad for you.

Damaged Beyond Repair?

September 14, 2007

humpty.jpgI spent a few minutes of my life yesterday listening to a podcast about the Juanity Bynum incident.  For those of you who may not know, she is a christian religious figure married to a bishop.  Recently a bellhop had to pull him off of her as he was kicking and stomping her in a parking lot. (Very man-of-godly).

This particular show was hosted by some black men venting.  The upshot of it all?  “The beatdown was justified.”  Yes, you read it correctly, the conclusion reached was that he was completely right to abuse and bloody his wife because after all, she had disrespected him.

Now, this is one example of what Evia (http://bfinterracialmarriage.blogspot.com/) means when she says that some men are “damaged beyond repair”.  Men who hold the view that a man who believes his mate has disrespected him should not speak to her about it, tell her to treat him right or bounce, or end the relationship then and there.  No, the solution is to start swinging and stomping to put the female back in her place. 

Men with these mentalities are out there, ladies.  And they are so warped, they have no problem proclaiming their sick beliefs before the entire world via the internet.  Not willing to act like a man, yet demanding the respect that only real men deserve.  And if they think they haven’t gotten it they have no problem putting you in the hospital.  This is something you need to find out about before getting seriously involved with a man.  How does he handle his anger?  Now, I’m not going to say that they are damaged beyond repair.  Only Allah knows that for sure.

What I know is that I am not up to the task.  I don’t do “fixer-uppers”, especially ones that will have no problem breaking my nose.

Do you?

Found this through UmAdam’s blog.  It is the first entry in a new category:  “Featured Posts from Other Blogs”

Here it is 6 years later and as it was then it is still now. 9/11 is a day of reflection for me for several reasons. On 9/11 I found out that:

1: I really was a Marine

2: I was willing to die for my country

3: Islam is infact not only a religion of peace, but the truth

Most people have no problem with 1 and 2 when I ordinarily re-tell this story, but number 3 is always met with hostility.

http://salaamsblog.wordpress.com/2007/09/11/911the-day-i-became-a-muslim/

scarlett.jpgThis post is inspired by my instant and visceral reaction to this post: http://bigfaith.wordpress.com/2007/04/17/second-wives-have-emotions-too/ about the feelings and struggles of second wives.  

My reaction was colored of course, by the fact that I am a first (and only) wife.  Reading the post and the comments I really could not wring out more than a thimble full of sympathy.  As I continued to think about it I realized that this emotion is not directed at second wives generally, but only at the ones who enter into secret marriages.  From where I sit, they acted selfishly–much like Ms. O’Hara– and then expect those around them to give a hoo when reality bites them in the rear.

But ill-tempered blustering is a waste of time.  It is also a not-so-favorable thing to have on my permanent record.  So let me turn this into something useful, insha’allah with a few thoughts.  First off, Peaceful Muslimah has a great post on her blog:  http://peacefulmuslimah.blogspot.com/2007/01/psa-public-service-announcement-if-you.html  for those thinking of being wifey #2.

Let me add to her points with some musings of my own: 

-marriage has it’s own challenges, and a polygynous one just adds to that.

-if you think that polygyny is ideal for you for whatever reason (you don’t want a man around all the time, you prefer lots of alone time, whatever) that’s great.  Do yourself and everyone else a favor and find a man with a wife that shares your ideals

Insist on meeting your prospective co-wife, even if she lives in another state or clear across the world.  If this man can afford to support you and her (your right, remember) he should be able to pay for a plane ticket.  This way you have some idea what kind of family you are marrying into (and make no mistake, that is what you are doing) and no one can say that you snuck and got married behind her back.

-Discuss beforehand and have some guarantees regarding how you are going to handle married life, especially if you live in the U.S. or somewhere else that polygyny is prohibited by law.  For example, wife #1 and the kids are likely on his health insurance, and she is recognized by the state and society at large as his wife.  What is his plan for making sure that you and your kids have coverage?  Does he plan to keep taking #1 and those children to the annual company picnic, while you and your children stay home so he can pretend to his co-workers and boss that you don’t exist?  And are you ok with that?  In the event of a divorce, again wife #1 has standing with the court.  If the two of you get divorced he can walk away from you with legal obligations for squat (unless you have children).  Some would say that the fact that one wife having standing which the other is denied makes equality impossible, but allahualim.  Be VERY sure about his character.  You may want a sizeable mahr as well.

-Consider well the implications for your children.  Depending on where you live there will be ramifications inside as well as outside of the muslim community.  Does his mother have a close and loving relationship with wife #1 and how will she treat you?  Can she put aside her possible negative feelings about you and treat your children with as much love as the other grandchildren?  What about the rest of his family?  Are his sister’s and brother’s children going to treat your children well, or will they turn up their noses in solidarity with their original cousins whenever there is a conflict?  Are you and they going to be welcome at family reunions?  And if polygyny is frowned upon by the muslim community where you live, don’t think the whispers and stares won’t affect your children. 

Do your due diligence and proceed with caution, honesty, and respect, and most reasonable muslims (I like to think I am one) will not have a problem with you or your marriage.  If you don’t, then expect neither sympathy nor assistance. 

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When my own children grow and marry, will their little girls wear beaded braids?  Will they eat cornbread dressing with their turkey, or will their spouses introduce them to something they prefer over it?  I don’t know.  I do know that in addition to passing on recipes, hairstyles, and ethnic history etc., I am trying to pass on islam.  In fact, that my children are muslim is my primary goal.  I’m trying to get them to love islam, to know it’s history.  To have not just an emotional attachment to it but a mental attachment.  I want them to have islam in their hearts and their heads.  Allah will not hold me to account if I didn’t teach my children well enough to be black/irish american.  Not teaching them to the best of my ability to be good muslims is another matter.

And so insha’allah I will look at “The Snowy Day” with my kids.  I will make Shepherd’s Pie and Potato Farl with my sons.  I will braid and bead my daughter’s hair, and teach her how to make my mother’s peach cobbler.  We will go to Irish Fest and Juneteenth.  And we will study Qur’an and Seerah together, and live and breathe islam.

My husband had my mom’s smothered chicken and really liked it.  He has made it himself, several times,  and has perfected his own version.  And so my children are growing up with a smothered chicken that came from the black side of their family but is prepared in the manner that their white father deems tastiest (a slightly thinner gravy with less pepper, less oil,  mushrooms and butter added in case you are wondering.) Cornbread dressing is now the stuffing served at the home of my husband’s brother and his wife when Thanksgiving rolls around.  He had it once at my house and declared it “the best stuffing I’ve ever had”.

Culture and phenotypes change.  Today’s Spain, for example, is the result of the contributions and encounters of the different peoples that came to it’s shores:  Greeks, Moors, and many others.  In the same way, families can and do change through the generations.  What you believe and how you live may not be carried forward by your descendants. You do your best while you are here to teach your children your culture, your religion, and to pass on your traditions.  And that’s all you can do.  What happens after you pass is entirely out of your hands.  There’s an old song in spanish I have always loved:

Al final,

las obras quedan y la gente se va

otros que vienen las continuaran

la vida sigue igual

 In the end, we want to see our own faces in our children and have them carry on our traditions because we don’t want to die. We feel that as long as junior plays football like his dad and babygirl spreads the quilt we made for her on her own daughter’s bed, a piece of us remains and we aren’t really “gone.”  In five generations, my descendants may all look east asian for all I know.  I just really, really pray that they are muslim.  That’s the part of me that I want most to remain.

Dreaming of Judgment Day

September 6, 2007

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I just remembered a dream I had last night.  My husband and I were sitting in our living room in the late evening.  Somehow we had come to know that Judgment Day was very close, at the end of that same night.  The mood was somber.  What would become of us?  We both had so many regrets.

I was very scared and yet not quite terrified, fretting over all the things I’ve done wrong and all the things I knew I should do but never made time for.  Now I had but a few hours remaining.  I frantically searched my memory for all the good things I’d done.  I remembered that I never carried things in plastic shopping bags when going to see my mom, because she hates that.  I thought of visiting my grandparents, teaching my children to read.  I continued my rapid mental inventory, examining all my good points.

Would it be enough?  I didn’t know.  Then a new thought popped into my mind:  Allah is the Merciful, the Forgiving.

And I felt hope.

I am so glad to wake up to the reality that my time is not yet over.  But that dream reminded me that tomorrow is not promised.  How many people kiss their spouse goodbye in the morning and head off to work, never to return?  How many times has someone put off calling their mom, promising themselves they’ll do it tomorrow, and when tomorrow comes it’s them getting a call–the news that their mother has died?  These things happen everyday, and yet somehow we never think they will happen to us.

I’ve got big plans for this Ramadhan.  I want to host a few iftars, do some crafts with the kids, make my daughter an ‘Eid dress.  I want to read and reflect on Qur’an every night, getting through the entire book by the end. 

I only hope that Allah will grant me the time.