when I turn on the tv, I want to see muslims who look like:

our mothers
draped in saris / shalwar kameez
speaking in punjabi / urdu / bengali / pashto / gujrati / hindi
with a briskness that is sweet and firm all at once.

our mothers
wearing the latest bold & bright fabric wrapped around their hips
speaking in hausa / swahili / arabic
blending melodies of cultures and heritages
that were supposed to be wiped away.

our mothers
wrapped in abayas-
all black, or all blue, or hand embroidered in palestine-
speaking arabic or arabic or arabic:
none of it sounding remotely similar
as they answer back with feigned looks of humor.

our mothers
hair tied back, spitting out spanish,
because she grew up in el barrio
so learning the gringo’s language wasn’t a necessity,
sitting in front of the camera(wo)man,
and speaking and speaking and speaking
even the translator can’t keep up.

our mothers
singing in the farsi of struggle and revolution
in a language of kingdoms and civilizations
that existed long before this country.

our mothers
in their fro(s) or braids or locs or hijabs
speaking in a language they have to conform,
developing intonations & sounds
to talk about their experiences and lives,
looking at the pale anchors to say:
‘I was here long before you.
My religion was here long before you.
So what now?’
our mothers —
our homelands, our places of birth, our reasons for being.

but some want us to look at them and say:
“no, mama, you’re a stereotype.
you speak too loud, too strong, too much.
we can’t have you up there representing ‘us.'”

so we drape ourselves
in american flags
pin our lapels
find the suit that fits
and practice so the language leaving our mouths is
so foreign
so academic
so polished —
that explaining our struggles seems alien.

while our mothers,
who have looked into the face(s) of white supremacy &
laughed
laughed
laughed,
watch us and cringe.

 

This poem originally appeared on the author’s Facebook page and has been reprinted here with permission.

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