Decolonizing Our Minds

It’s really hard to exist in Somali community or any ultra conservative community as a woman with her own mind and full autonomy over her own body. Challenging patriarchy, which is often supported by both culture&religion, is often seen as an affront and betrayal of your culture.
 
If you say religion is a problem because it infantilizes women and robs us of our autonomy and full humanity, you’re accused of being Islamophobic. This to me is a silencing tactic. I’m quite tired of it, tbh.
 
Religion sanctions and enables patriarchy and abuse by patriarchy. It infantilizes women and puts men in charge of us. It attaches our bodies to sin by virtue of being born women. We have already committed a crime by being born woman.
 
When decolonizing our minds, why can’t we talk about how religion suppresses critical thinking, advising that you should never question it even though what it demands at times goes against common sense, and even common decency?
Our morals shouldn’t be governed by the religions of our forefathers. If I say, I don’t practice Islam, Somalis who are in a constant battle across tribal lines, and committing all types of atrocities to one another, want to make me look like I’m a bad person.
 
What defines a bad person? Your actions? Or that you profess to believe in the God of Abraham? There’s no point mentioning any other tenets because often people just want to know your affiliation. They don’t care what you do really as long as you stay loyal to your birth right.
 
That’s divine, apparently, and the one and only true path.
 
How convenient that the religion you were born into is the correct one?

Call me Intrigued

” Nothing was too disgusting, even dead skin we peeled off our feet.” Abdi Iftin,”Call Me American.”
 
Earlier in the week, I saw a facebook post mocking this sentence. I read how people in their comfortable Western lives mocked desperation and the physical need for food.
 
I wondered: Have they never known hunger? Even if was due to them accidentally forgetting to pack for school or work, and then feeling so dizzy and hangry by the time they got home, or were able to get some food?
 
Even that is quite unbearable. But atleast,one knows that they’ll get food as soon as possible. It was not a matter of if they’ll get food, but when.
 
As Muslims, didn’t they fast 14,16,18 hours at times feeling the hunger pangs, dry mouth, confusion, and irritability that comes with hunger?
 
This lack of food was their own choice, however, and they knew food was guaranteed as soon as the sun set.
 
How could they not relate to hunger? How could they not imagine then not having guaranteed food, and how this could drive someone to eat almost anything to survive?
 
Even I, who’s never known real hunger, other than not eating when I’m supposed to and deeply regretting it when working out, or in the classroom with 30 rambunctious teenagers, could imagine this hell. Real hunger. It terrifies me.
 
“Desperate situations call for desperate measures.” Most people know that.
 
Where was their sense of humanity?
 
As I’m learning more and more about my own people, some things are becoming clearer.
 
I am realizing that although we may come from the same ethnic community, we can be very different people with different life experiences, different social classes, which can then pave way for different opinions on different aspects of life.
 
That should be common sense, right?
 
Well….
 
When you’re an ethnic minority outside of your homeland, your people become a singular entity, devoid of their own individual characteristics. I used to wonder why Somalis were so offended by my choice to not wear hijab, or my nerve to openly question religion. They would say things like,”We don’t do that.” And my Somali American self would say,”Who is WE? I’m just me.” *Kanye shrug *
 
I’ve realized just as outsiders see us as a singular entity, we also see ourselves that way.
 
“We’re Somalis, and this is what Somalis do or don’t do.” This leaves no room for individuality. This leaves no room for mistakes. This leaves no room for dissenting voices, or difference in opinion.
 
I have a lot of thoughts about the book, the discussions online, and about Somalis: our clan dynamics (author is from a minority clan, and I’m sure this influences discussions), group think, and lack of individuality, that I hope to share in the coming weeks.

For Your Sense of Self

You need to make peace with a couple of things.

You need to first make peace with who you are as a person, and realize as well accept that you are not going to please everyone. This can be extremely difficult if you’re nonconfrontational, and an extreme empath. There may not be anything wrong with you, but some people will never like you no matter what and will be against anything and everything that you’re doing. It’s frustrating, yes, but there is nothing that you can do to make yourself more palatable to them. If you try, you will find that you will lose a sense of self, and each time you try, a piece of yourself will go too. It’s futile. Stop now.

You need to let go of toxic people even if they are your own family. This is the hardest. How do you let go of the people 1) you love the most and 2) are indicators of where you as a person are from?

Sometimes your family can be your downfall. If they don’t agree with what you are doing with your life they may try anything and everything to sabotage you, and your goals. If you have an extremely toxic family especially one where the man ie head of household is toxic and influences everyone else, you may need to look elsewhere for love, affection, affirmation, and validation because you will only get heartache, disappointment, disillusionment, and continuous psychological trauma which can prevent you from being able to do any work, and progress in your personal and professional life. (Yes, I am speaking from personal experience)

How do you establish boundaries? Be firm and assertive. Tell someone the boundaries you operate on. A lot of times in our community, we tend to dismiss people’s boundaries. You can’t imagine how many times I’ve blocked a person over.”caadi iska dhig.” What is that supposed to mean other than,” accept my bs, what the hell is wrong with you for expecting better behavior from another adult?” People will either respect their boundaries and you can maintain a relationship with them or they won’t, and you need to decide whether it’s worth keeping them in your life. Often, it’s not, because their actions are detrimental to your being, and the more they cross your boundaries, the more they’re showing what they think of you. They don’t think much of you. Now, is that someone you want to give access to your space? They make you second guess your value, they undercut your achievements, and they throw things back in your face, or they may be more subtle, and sheepishly comment on how that wasn’t really a great deal, and that so and so did something better. Their comparison is not meant to make you feel good about yourself. It is supposed to do exactly what you know its supposed to do: make you feel bad about yourself. Now, is that someone you can trust with your insecurities, and shortcomings, and can give you a helping hand in trying times? No. You know that.

It’s hard to stand alone. People count on the fact that because it is so difficult to be alone that sometimes they continuously trespass your boundaries because they think where else are you going to go? Everyone needs a family, right? Qof kasta meel ayuu ka soo jeedaa? Soo ma aha?

When you disengage and exercise these hard boundaries, know and accept that they may never engage with you again, or accept your terms of engagement. Can you live without them? That’s the question you have to ask yourself. 

What to do those moments when you are especially weak and vulnerable? Do you engage? Well after some time of not communicating with people, they may have moved on too, so engage at your own risk of being rejected, or falling into another cycle. Maybe they’ll be happy to hear from you and needed you to make that move because you disengaged initially.
Maybe they’ve had a ceremonial burying for you, and do not want to have anything to do with you.  This is a tough pill to accept, but accept it you must. Move on.

If a long time has passed, really think about this, and what you are going to say. What is the reason for your return? Are you there to stay? Are you going to stay on their conditions since you made the first move of reestablishing contact?

Finally, I would say find meaning in life that is outside of your connection to other people. People come and go. You have to live with the person you are. Do you like this person? Do you respect this person?
Take care of yourself and your finances like you have no backup outside of yourself, because you truly may not. If you get a flat tire, who are you going to call? If you lose your job, can you survive 3-6 months until you find another? Make an emergency plan for the dark days. Things to do to take your mind off things. Understand that if you did what you could to maintain a relationship and it didn’t work out, it is what it is. Even if you didn’t do what you could, because the business of living got in the way, and the relationship is irreparably broken, then it is what it is. What can you do alone? To make a relationship work you need the other person to not only be willing but also actively work on it along with you. If you don’t have that partnership, then you don’t have a relationship. There is no relationship to maintain or work on.

 

Make peace with yourself and your circumstances and change what you can control and try not to worry about what you can’t.

On Being Alone

There is a danger in sharing your story. People are quick to dismiss you as,”angry and vengeful.” Well, let’s get this out of the way: I am absolutely angry, and I have a right to be. I am not asking that you understand my anger.
 
As far as vengeful, what can I really do to my abusers? Shame them? They should be ashamed.
 
If they didn’t want me to talk about my traumatic experiences at their hands, they shouldn’t have inflicted trauma upon me.
 
There is another real danger. Much bigger than people criticizing you.
 
It is the loss of relationships.
 
When I talk openly about my experiences, and I’m revealing parts of myself, I am also inadvertently unmasking others or people whom they love.
 
For me, its some of my siblings that I do care about.
 
When I talk about the trauma I’ve experienced at the hands of their mother, there could be a potential loss of relationships.
 
I’ve realized a lot of us are silent because of the people we’re bound to. We don’t want to hurt their feelings. We don’t want to inadvertently make them,”choose sides.” Do I ever expect my siblings to choose me over their mother? No. That’s lunacy. I struggle with depression, but I’m pretty lucid and sane. I’m pretty realistic too.
 
It’s a risk that I’m willing to take because I want to be free from the emotional trauma that I’m still carrying. And speaking about things openly, and publicly, is my way of processing things.
 
Of course, there are going to be casualties.
 
Also, when you’re the only child from a different mother, you and your siblings are already oceans apart. There is you. And then there is them. They’re connected, bound by a single womb.
 
You’re always the outsider. If they’re particularly cruel, they never let you forget it.
 
I’ve realized my aloneness is my best asset. I feel loyal to myself, and to my own truth.
 
Being alone removes from you the “loyalty” that keeps you silent, that keeps you accepting the bullshit, the microaggressions within your family, the constant otherness you’re made to feel and expected to forever live with.
 
Being alone, for me, has never been more powerful.
 
Being alone is also understandably scary. I want to address this one day and talk about forming tribes of your own choosing, based on mutual respect and love.
 
But right now, here’s to being alone, being proud of yourself, and loving yourself despite all the ways you’ve been made to believe that you aren’t lovable or a worthy person.
 
You are.
 
Cheers.
 

The Trauma of Dhaqan Celis

One day, I’ma tell y’all my dhaqan celis (direct translation: return to culture .A situation where children, born and or bred in Americas or European countries, are sent to their parents native land, or a close country if the native land is not a functioning state due to civil war, etc) story. ( Obviously, it didn’t work…hehehehe)
 
But on the real, though, it really wasn’t a joke. It was one of the most traumatic and defining experiences of my life.
 
Recovering from that has been a battle, and a half and I’m still not there.
 
Most Somali parents punish their kids with,”dhaqan celis.” Most of us haven’t lived in Somalia, or Kenya, ever or for a long time. So imagine being dumped in China or somewhere you don’t know the language, culture, or anything during adolescence, an already turbulent time?
 
Alone.
 
The decent ones, usually mothers, go with their kids.
 
Some of us who have no mothers, or mothers who care, are dumped in a foreign country by ourselves and left to our own devices of how to deal with it, and numb the pain. Somehow.
 
Every day, I wonder, how I’m still alive. How I’m still fighting. How I’m still here.
 
Then I remember, I have a child to live for. He is my saving grace.
 
Damn. This is sending me back memory lane. I’m already experiencing second-hand PTSD from last night’s documentary about the horror “rehab center” in Eastleigh.
 
Anyways, I’ll tell y’all when I get my thoughts in order, and after speaking to a therapist. Whenever I go to dark places, the depression hits me tenfold, and I’m not able to function at all.
 
I just have too much on my plate right now to be incapacitated. Is there ever a time you’re ready to be incapacitated,tho? Not really. 
 
I’ve realized with our suffocating ceeb/xishood (shame) culture, there must be so many of us walking around as shells not ever able to process the trauma.
 
I can’t count the number of times, I’ve been told,”caadi iska dhig. Waxaas mar hore ayay dhacday. Iska iloow.” ( Act normal. That happened a long time ago. Forget about it). 
 
What part of,”one of the most traumatic and defining experiences,” do people not understand? You can’t fucking forget it. It’s always there. The pain is always there, and it never leaves you. You learn to live with it and somehow function as a “normal” human being that fulfills their responsibilities.
 
But some days, it just creeps up on you, and just destroys you for a few days/ maybe weeks, until you’re able to crawl, and then walk again.
 
I think I’m really tired of the silence surrounding so many social ills. I’m tired of it, and I don’t want to participate in the silence. Some days, I tell myself,” what good is it for you to talk about this? It messes you up, and you’re kaput for a few weeks. ” But I tell myself,” there must be someone also struggling with this. Someone, like me, who doesn’t have a mother or any family members who care about their pain. ” I want to reach that person to let them know,”I care. I’ve been there. I know how it feels.”
 
Someday, I’m going to have to dissect what is to be the only child of a woman who’s missing and no one knows wherever she is; whether she is dead or alive. Someday, I’ll have to confront how that part of my identity really shaped my life and the things that have happened to me.
 
Right now, I’m going to admit that that was one of the key reasons why I was sacrificed and dumped in a foreign land alone.

Acceptance 

 

I knew it was bad, but as he kissed me, I couldn’t help but feel so good. Wasn’t life about this? I thought, pushing away the guilt. This overwhelming passion that sends shivers down my spine whenever he touched me. Slowly, he pushes aside my nightgown, and releases my breasts from the restrictions of the fabric. It was as if they rejoiced, free at last! I laughed at the thought of it. Then the heat envelopes me, and my breathing becomes swallow. I could feel the heat rising from my toes, just suffocating me. 

“Baby, baby, he whispered, and I’m thinking, “God, I’m going crazy!” I quickly scolded myself for bringing God into this. Would He even approve of this? I wondered for a moment, but then I quickly pushed the thought aside. 

I took a good look at him. Not really a bad sight, I thought, but he had this arrogance about him. Oh well, his loving is too good to give up. I roared with laughter inside. Never thought I’d be capable of uttering such ignorance.  

But hey a girl’s got needs, right? 

The wind starts blowing, I can feel the entire Earth shaking beneath me. Lightning strikes, and thunder bellows, the sky’s turning dark, and I lose sight of everything.   

What is it when you just take things as they are like they’re supposed to be that way, whether they make sense or not.

Acceptance.  

I’m on a rollercoaster. I’m going up slowly then rush down, the wind slapping my face along the way, turning right, before twisting to the left. My heart leaps with fright, but I’m so excited.  

Acceptance. Accepting that life’s a bitch, the world is cruel, society is hypocritical, somewhere in the world women and children are hurting, countries are being destroyed in the war. I stop. Let’s face it: what does that have to do with me right at this moment? 

Acceptance. 

I’m almost there,” I whisper barely able to speak. 

Volcanoes erupt, and the earth’s shaking dangerously. Cracks start to appear on land; trees, animals, people, and houses fall in. Lightning strikes again, and the sky screams with anger.  

And I do too. I catch my breath. Finally. Relief.  

The sea is calm now. The wind slowly retreats. The earth ceases to shake, and I look up and the sky’s clear now.  

“That was so good, he said, looking at me intensely with that twinkle in his eyes as if to suggest the coming of another storm. 

He leans in to kiss me. Playfully I turn away, hiding my disgust.
 

Fetishization, Revenge Porn, And Habo Ifka’s Talk to the Ladies

Any ajnabi who talks about how much they love Somali women should send alarm bells ringing in anyone’s head. That’s not love – that’s fetishization. Somali women are not a monolith.
 
This reminds me of a video I watched about Asian women talking about white men pursuing Asian women because they think they are,”docile and submissive.”
That’s my same suspicions about ajnabi who talk about their love of Somali women. I don’t know what you heard, but GTFOH all the way with your myopic view of us.
 
I’ve been hearing of one in particular who is preying on Somali women on social media, seducing them, and sharing intimate conversations and images with none other than Somali men . Btw, those Somali men are the weakest link in Somalinimo.
 
Part of me knows why those men gleefully revel in those images/videos. They believe any Somali women who has been with an ajnabi is tarnished goods i.e no longer valuable etc… They basically dehumanize us, so anything that happens to us is whatever to them.
I hope something terrible befalls on them, and I don’t care if that’s unkind of me. Your warped thinking is wrong and hurts women in many ways.
 
You know, I never thought I would be the one to say this; me who likes to see the best in people, and give everyone the benefit of doubt, but I’ve grown out of the naivete, and stupidity. I didn’t have a mother or a mother figure in my life so I had to learn everything the hard way, but basically, ladies, YOU CAN’T TRUST THESE MEN.
 
Let me tell you something.
 
Ladies, it’s a hard world out there for a woman. We’re sexualized and desexualized at the same time. You’re supposed to act like you’re not a sexual being, but apparently put out seriously behind a closed door (how f* sway?!) Our bodies are not even our own in this world. They’re constantly micromanaged, trespassed upon, and violated. Sometimes, I wonder what women really own in this world. It’s psychologically traumatizing to be on edge all the time. You can’t trust these men but, if you’re straight, at the same time you’re supposed to have romantic partnerships with them, marry them, have children with them, but still watch your back even when you’re married to them, coz marriage is not even enough for them to see us as human beings.
 
That’s enough to drive a person mad.
 
I have no answers, but just a suggestion. Take care of your mind, body, and spirit. Own your body, and continuously challenge anyone who even *tries* to trespass. Challenge everyone, even your loved ones. This warped thinking starts at home. At home, you’re taught what a,”good woman,” is supposed to be, and that a, “bad woman,” deserves all the bad things that happen to her. But we’re not taught the hierarchies in the world that devalue and dehumanize a person. We’re not taught about the ways women are continuously disrespected and dehumanized in society. They tell you the “qualities” of a good woman, but they don’t tell you that their love and respect for you is conditional, and you’re always one step away from being considered worthless, after all the basis for all of it is that,”you are but a woman.”
 
Remember that,”good girls,” the next time you want to slut-shame another girl. They don’t love you either. You’re only in their good graces (for now), because you follow the rules set by patriarchy to keep you in your place. You can stay there, forever at their whims, or you can fight along with us for ALL women to be free, and have autonomy over own bodies and destiny.
 
Also, DON’T TRUST THESE MEN and go out and flourish in this world!