As a Black Muslim woman being in an academic setting of any sort is always strange. It is 2017 but people still equate intelligence to the color of someone’s skin. I go to a school where there are about twenty-five or so black people so most of the time I am the only black person in my classes. I have lost count of the amount of time I said something in class or to people and people look surprised that I could form an intelligent coherent sentence that they would come up to me afterward and feel the need to congratulate me.They look at me as if they could not believe that I was actually intelligent enough to think that deep. Often people feel the need to pat me on the back saying, “you speak good English.” I often have the urge to tell them that their remark is not a compliment rather an insult and the correct grammar is “you are well spoken” not “you speak good English.” I often wonder if they ever imagined saying that to a white student and realize how they would have sounded. As poet Ernestine Johnson put it.
They say I’m not the average black girl because I’m so well spoken
Poised, full of etiquette, a white man’s token
You know I remember my ex’s mother telling me, “I didn’t know how I was gonna react when he brought home a black girl, but I like you because you talk so white. (lines1-2)
I wonder if they realize I speak more than four languages. I wonder if they realize it only took me less than three months to learn English and by the age of fifteen, I have completely memorized the whole Quran. That the only reason people feel black people can’t be intelligent is because the white men made sure of it for more than 245 years.
Ernestine Johnson Performs ‘The Average Black Girl’ on Arsenio Hall Show.Youtube Video, 4:36.Posted by “Ernestine Johnson.” April 14, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tN4Zulagb8