“Do you have hair?”
“Did your parents force you to wear it?”
“How do you take a shower with that?”
These questions scratch the surface of what people ask me as someone who wears a hijab. Yes, I have hair. No, I wear this by choice. And, dude, do you really think I have this on during every waking hour of my life?
However, the individuals asking me these questions aren’t bad people or have bad intentions. They’re just ignorant. I’m sure if you ask someone from another marginalized group they’ll say that they’ve had similar experiences to mine: people saying ignorant things without recognizing their ignorance, and because of their privileges, not caring enough to recognize they’re being insensitive.
I can do my part by answering your silly questions to prevent you from asking the same things to other Muslims, but the problem is that people say insensitive things because they’re satisfied with their place in society — they don’t have the incentive to properly educate themselves on issues surrounding other communities.
People are satisfied with being “allies” and saying they support people like me because as long as others know they’re a good person, it’s fine, right?
Any good person knows that they should be righteous human beings who don’t discriminate against minorities, but they don’t really know exactly what they’re supporting, which is why I get questions asking me about my religion in the first place.
People who aren’t affected by social issues stay ignorant about them because they don’t want to meddle in something that’ll require them to voice an opinion of controversy or spark a debate.
Besides, the thought of doing the right thing in the face of affliction is just an inconvenience; people don’t see a point in speaking out if it doesn’t concern them, so why bother going out of the way to educate themselves on the topic? Truly, ignorance is bliss.
To the people who ask me the fundamental questions about whether I have hair or not, it may not matter to you, but I’ll be going through my entire life getting asked the same questions. Receiving these microaggressions have become an expectation. When I meet someone who is unfamiliar with my religion for the first time, I wait for them to ask those questions, and if they don’t, I know they’re thinking about when they should ask me. But it doesn’t stop at simple things like my hair — they can dip into larger issues like terrorism.
It’s hard for me to confront ignorant comments made about terrorist attacks done by extremists. Not because I can’t, but because in what way can I make you understand that the media misrepresents Islam as a religion of terrorism? Those microaggressions can grow into something larger if you don’t realize that they’re degrading in the first place.
So if you pat yourself on the back for treating minorities like human beings (even though that’s something everyone should be doing) but still portray ignorance, it’s important to become aware of that. Even if you aren’t being discriminatory or don’t have bad intentions, it doesn’t mean what you say can’t be problematic.
Recognize the privileges you have for not experiencing the same prejudice minority groups receive and choose to speak out against it. Don’t be afraid of educating yourself by becoming mindful of the importance of societal issues — whether they surround religion, race, gender, etc. — because there are people out there who have to face them everyday.