“A Brown Muslim,” Recent Reads, and Current Events

In today’s podcast episode, I read “A Brown Muslim,” a sample personal essay that I wrote for the assignment I created (Racial Identity Autobiography Personal Essay & Artwork) for Dava Shastri’s Last Day. I also cover some of my Recent Reads and Current Events.

DSLD Assignment: “A Brown Muslim & “1000+56 Words”

The first assignment I’ve created to go along with Dava Shastri’s Last Day is a racial identity formation personal essay so that students can explore the importance of skin color in their own lives, just like Sandi in the novel does. The artwork project that goes along with this essay is an opportunity for students to express themselves in another medium as well as gives them a chance to directly control the narrative of their experience realizing the color of their skin, particularly if that was traumatizing for them. Here’s the master folder with all of the documents needed for the Racial Identity Autobiography Personal Essay & Artwork Assignment.

As an educator, I strongly believe in showing students a good example of what a certain project or assignment looks like. I always make an effort to only assign my students things that: 1-I have shown a sample of and 2-included the rubric and discussed how it will be used to determine their grade. I can’t assume that they know what a personal essay looks like–or any other type of random thing they may or may not have done in my class or any other class!

I became aware of the darkness of my skin under the big trees in front of my fifth grade classroom the day after the 9/11 attacks. Instead of going to play before school started that summer morning as usual, my best friend Caylin told me that her parents said she couldn’t be my friend anymore because my uncle in Pakistan could be a terrorist.  Stock-still, panic flooding my body, I stood there feeling naked and cold. I was so confused. How did she know my parents were from Pakistan? How did she know anything about my one uncle–whom I’d never met–who lived there? I specifically remember looking down at my bare arms, which appeared, to me, different and darker for the first time foiled against Caylin’s perfect whiteness.  

Many years later as a freshman in college, I found myself protesting over fee hikes at the University of California in November 2009.  The clubs in the Cross Cultural Center, along with the Muslim Student Union (MSU), staged an elaborate scheme to shut down the university with a walk out.  I had Chemistry during the protest, but was directed to stay in class to wait for the disruption and then walk out, hopefully setting an example for the rest of my 400 classmates. I heard some chanting getting louder outside and I started feeling a giddy excitement.  When two dozen protesters descended upon the hall, flooding in from the top and bottom doors in the huge auditorium, I happily sprung up from my seat and joined the chorus yelling “Walk out!”  

But after persisting for a few minutes, me standing in front of my seat with my fist pumping in the air, it was clear that no other freshman in my class would join us and I was terribly embarrassed. What was worse–my professor became angry and began shouting, demanding the disruption to stop. He pushed a couple protestors near him towards the doors. I began shaking from head to foot, sweat prickling all over my body. I was losing the courage to walk out of the class. An MSU board member, Sumayya, noticed my hesitation and she grabbed my backpack and took me by the arm to help me leave with the rest of the protesters. Sumayya rescued me from my humiliation and led me outside. My affinity for MSU grew tremendously with that single act of kindness and MSU became my family. In the crowd that marched around the campus, I saw such a motley collection of people–with many different colors of skin, very few of them white–united around the same cause. The euphoric energy lit a feeling of deep connectedness inside of me to every single protester. I finally saw with my own eyes hundreds of peers who cared about having to pay more tuition, just like me. I  witnessed them rise with a glorious sense of power to challenge their oppression. I realized then that my skin wasn’t just darker than white—it was actually brown.  It felt good to be brown, in addition to being Muslim, because many people from diverse backgrounds were also brown and we were standing together, fighting for the same cause.


“1000+56 Words” Artwork

This is an example for an accompanying artwork with the racial identity personal essay. I did not create this specifically for the personal essay, I created it while I was in college for a…diverse student event of some sort. However, I do think this works within the scope of the assignment! It can be tiring to create examples of all the assignments you’d like your students to do, so I’m all for shortcuts!! You can check out the writeup I wrote alongside this on MuslimMatters, which details my experience and trauma (most of it in school) around 9/11. Two other instances to note which haunted me through my schooling were one in junior high during a discussion in my English class and a second in high school with an incredibly Islamophobic teacher (he was a teacher of color–Latino!).

Dava for President? I’ll Pass!

I also discuss some Recent Reads. Here they all are:

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Season 4: (Susie’s speech at Jackie’s funeral). I didn’t know the actor actually did pass away in real life when recording the podcast.

Downton Abbey 2 Trailer

The Fame Game Trailer

Never Have I ever (Season 3) Wrap & New Desi Cast Member

The Trojan Horse Affair Podcast: listen here

Becoming Muslim Podcast by The Spiritual Edge

Listen here.

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