Tariq Nelson reminded us that colorism still exists in his blog entry, And you Still Deny it. His short entry directs us to Umm Adam’s blog entry Racism and Colorism in Saudi. Time and time again, we read about negative perceptions of African Americans. Dozens of African American authors, like Toni Morrison in her book The Bluest Eye, have explored racial self hatred. Recently more people are recounting stories of colorism and racial self-hatred among Afro-Arab communities. When I went to Southern Morocco, I saw the most beautiful Moroccans in all shades and colors. It reminded me of home.After reading the entry, I didn’t feel angry instead I felt kind of sad for the people who are not allowed to see their beauty.

I went to New Jersey to visit my grandmother in 2005. One day she brought me to her work in order to introduce me to her co-workers. My grandmother, a seventy year old chocolate woman who beamed as she introduced her grandchildren, told her co-workers,”My babies are the colors of the rainbow.” Last June my family took me out to lunch at in celebration of my graduation. A white American couple stopped by our table and told my mother, “You have a beautiful family!” My mom smiled, “Yes, they are all my babies.” My mom noted, “Whenever we go somewhere people stare and are drawn to us. It’s like they’re suprised to see attractive Black people.” My mother gave birth to striking children of distinct hues: dark chocolate, peachy cream, and me somewhere in between. I enjoy the skin that I’m in. I look at my family pictures and all the shades, I think of that poem:

Harlem Sweeties
by Langston Hughes

Have you dug the spill
Of Sugar Hill?
Cast your gims
On this sepia thrill:
Brown sugar lassie,
Caramel treat,
Honey-gold baby
Sweet enough to eat.
Peach-skinned girlie,
Coffee and cream,
Chocolate darling
Out of a dream.
Walnut tinted
Or cocoa brown,
Pride of the town.
Rich cream-colored
To plum-tinted black,
Feminine sweetness
In Harlem’s no lack.
Glow of the quince
To blush of the rose.
Persimmon bronze
To cinnamon toes.
Blackberry cordial,
Virginia Dare wine—
All those sweet colors
Flavor Harlem of mine!
Walnut or cocoa,
Let me repeat:
Caramel, brown sugar,
A chocolate treat.
Molasses taffy,
Coffee and cream,
Licorice, clove, cinnamon
To a honey-brown dream.
Ginger, wine-gold,
Persimmon, blackberry,
All through the spectrum
Harlem girls vary—
So if you want to know beauty’s
Rainbow-sweet thrill,
Stroll down luscious,
Delicious, fine Sugar Hill.

Cross Dressing For Allah

So one of my friends asked me what did I think about the Red Mosque stand off. You know, the one where the pious Muslim leader tried to escape out the backdoor dressed as a woman. I’m not one to write too much about politics. I am also very careful about writing on events that I don’t understand. But who could ignore the dramatic events and the burqas. Umar Lee has made some very interesting comments on this piece in his blog. My response is delayed because I’ve been really swamped with my work and studies. But with the flurry of blog entries, here’s my two cents.

There is so much discussion about women’s dress, hijab, niqab, and burqa. A few years back, Michael Jackson made headlines by dressing in an abaya and veil and powdering his nose in a bathroom. Himesh Reshammiya pissed off a lot of Muslims in a shrine. Himesh and Michael were just trying to escape paparazzi. But there have been a growing number of stories where bank robbers and Muslim militants donned the burqa to escape police or military capture. In the case of the mosque standoff, I think I’d cut the brother some slack if he didn’t have such a hard core deen-or-die-rough-rider-pakistani-style rhetoric. So what’s up with that ready to die as a shaheed, but dressing up as a meek Muslimah? I’m really rusty on my Fiqh, but last I heard was that cross dressing was haram. In fact, I’ve read works by Muslim writers who condemn Muslim women for wearing jeans and pants like men. But maybe in this case they used ijtihad and came up with some ruling that it is okay to cross dress fi-subil-Allah.