Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

"I'm a Black Female Who Happens to Be Muslim": Multiple Marginalities of an Immigrant Black Muslim Woman on a Predominantly White Campus

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

"I'm a Black Female Who Happens to Be Muslim": Multiple Marginalities of an Immigrant Black Muslim Woman on a Predominantly White Campus

Article excerpt

Introduction

Although it has been over a decade since a group of individuals connected to the Islamist organization al-Qaeda hijacked four airliners to carry out suicide attacks in cities across the United States, the legacy of September 11, 2001 continues to live with us. In addition to drastically shifting notions of safety and security, these attacks transformed domestic and foreign geopolitical and sociopolitical relationships. One lasting effect was the construction of the dangerous, militant, and unpredictable "Muslim Other" whom, if wise, we should fear (Sirin & Fine, 2007). In the aftermath of the attacks, the United States sought to contain this fear through unprecedented doctrines of war and an expanded carceral state, which were "used to justify the detention of 'any bodies' suspected of being terrorists" (Ahmed, 2004, p. 75). This reality was made pointedly clear when many people shared stories of negotiating a racialized and religious state of terror through Twitter using the hashtag #afterseptember11 (Chiel, 2015).

Considering the large impact of these events on contemporary sociopolitical realities and the developmental processes of young people (Sirin & Fine, 2007), it is somewhat surprising very few studies have examined the lived realities of Muslim undergraduate students (Ali, 2014; Nasir & Al-Amin, 2006), which reflects the collective understudied experiences of religiously minoritized students (Smalls, 2011). Even further, very few studies examine the experiences of Black, Muslim women, who occupy multiple marginalized social categories (Ali, 2014; Nasir & Al-Amin, 2006). There are at least two reasons for this knowledge gap. First, most college student identity research tends to segment marginalized students' identities, often conceptualizing the complexity of students' identities as discrete, nominal categories (Patton, Renn, Guido, & Quaye, 2016). Second, in research and political discourse, immigrant Muslims are often assumed to be Brown, while Black Muslims are assumed to be U.S. born (Jackson, 2005). This is a function of both the increased presence of Muslims from the Middle East and Asia post-1965 after the repeal of the National Origins Act1 and Asiatic Barred Zone2 as well as the continued impact of the emergence of the Nation of Islam among Black Americans in the 20th century (Jackson, 2005). As a result, less attention has been paid to the experiences of individuals who do not fit neatly into predetermined categories.

Crenshaw's (1991) concept of political intersectionality is instructive. Her analysis of the ways Black women's lived experiences were not adequately addressed in Black liberationist and feminist movements of the 1960s and 1970s is akin to the ways Black Muslim immigrant-born women are rendered invisible. Concerning the present study, such an approach allows one to examine the lived experiences of immigrant-origin Black Muslim women who are often missing from larger discussions about being Muslim (i.e., Brown immigrant) and Black Muslim (i.e., U.S. born). Using Black Feminist Theory of intersectionality and Collin's (1991) matrix of domination, as the basis of the theoretical framework, we present a nuanced analysis of how gender, religion, race, and nationality influenced Yasmin's (pseudonym) interactions across multiple communities and her strategies for navigating diverse spaces. Therefore, this study of a Black, Muslim, immigrantorigin, female student shifts from an additive notion of multiple identities of minoritized students and seeks to advance the collective knowledge by closely engaging the narrative of a Black, Muslim, immigrant, female college student born in Saudi Arabia.

Religiosity and Spirituality in Higher Education: The Privileged and the Minoritized

Traditionally, higher education research focused on the religious and spiritual lives of college undergraduates has overwhelmingly centered the experiences and perspectives of the racially, gender, and religiously privileged (i. …

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