The Unicorn Trapped Inside a Black Muslim Woman

Photo Description: Autumnal red maple leaves in focus in foreground on right of photo, with a central out-of-focus double rainbow against a gray sky and background red maple on left.

Photo Description: Autumnal red maple leaves in focus in foreground on right of photo, with a central out-of-focus double rainbow against a gray sky and background red maple on left.

Black girl magic is real. Black Muslim girl magic is so unreal you have to be a unicorn! Since I have come to terms with loving my features, I guess that makes me and other black Muslim women unicorns!

When I was seven-and-a-half years old, my family and I moved to a predominately white town in New Hampshire. You can count the number of colored families in that town with your own two hands. As I walked into my first day of second grade, it’s like no one had ever seen a black person before. I felt like a foreigner, as my classmates teased me, even though I was from Boston. When I told my teacher, she didn’t care. When I decided to get even with the kids, she called me “low-maintenance,” mainly because of the color of my skin. My parents felt unsafe with me having a racist teacher, so I transfered classes and she was later fired.

Throughout elementary and middle school, I wanted to be someone else. My classmates had straight blonde hair and I had black braids. When the other kids would ask to touch my hair, it felt weird. Was I a pet or something? I asked my mom to straighten my hair and relax it, but my classmates were still in awe and wanted to touch it. When I was twelve years old, I started wearing the hijab and dressing more modestly. Everyone was wearing bermuda shorts and Hollister hoodies while I was wearing a pashmina scarf with long and loose clothing with high-top sneakers to complete my outfit. Kids looked at me funny. At that point, it felt weird to be me. 

Throughout high school, I couldn’t care less about my identity. Instead, I focused on fitting in and making friends. I was a whole other person, but I wasn’t me. I was out of place and insecure. It wasn’t until I graduated and moved back to Massachusetts that things started to look up. The diversity in my new hometown was astonishing! I had never seen so many different walks of life growing up! I starting making new friends, especially ones that look like me because I never had that. My group of black Muslim girlfriends share the same struggles and can relate to one another. That’s when I felt a sense of belonging. That’s when I started to find myself again!

In the age of social media, it’s easy to access the walks of life I didn’t see growing up. It’s like inspiration can be at your fingertips! When Ibtihaj Muhammad made it to the Olympics, it was a proud moment for me. When Halima Aden went from one beauty pageant to a major modeling contract, it was a proud moment for me. When I see representation of my identity, it’s like looking in a mirror. I surrounded myself with so much inspiration that I never noticed how unique it is to be me. My hijab and my brown skin is beautiful. To have conversations about being black, Muslim, and a woman is beautiful. To be on the same path with these inspiring people is beautiful. To realize my true colors, that’s even more beautiful.

In this white world, learn to see in color. Surround yourself with people who inspire you and make you proud to be you. Learning to love myself felt unreal. As imaginary as it might seem, loving your identity is magic.

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Ahlam Abdelkader is a writer for You can check out her work here. When she’s not writing, she’s either reading or finding a way to save the world.

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