Trevor Noah reiterated several times in his fantastic memoir ‘Born A Crime’ that race is a social construct. I nodded my head each time that sentence appeared, yet no closer to unwinding my own views. More than the stories of his mother (who is amazing, naturally reminded me of mine) and his frank views on apartheid and its effects to South Africa, personally what gets to me most about his book is in how he narrates about being half-and-half; an outsider looking in, physical appearance versus personal identification etc – he read like a true kindred spirit.
I started the year reading ‘The Tudung Anthology‘ (lit. The Headscarf Anthology) by a local publisher, motivated due to my puzzlement over a few colleague-friends’ recent makeovers. As the title goes, it’s a collection of short stories and essays by Muslim and non-Muslim women on the headscarf/hijab – varying personal views on what it is and isn’t (perceived). The book isn’t phenomenal with no new points but there were some insightful essays.
4 months later and I’m still here: it feels like I’m no closer to deconstructing my own views on what makes up the racial construct as how I perceive it yet still struggling, as I have my whole life, to ‘fit in’ – wherever that is, but especially challenging of late when I think of the workplace and perhaps on a more general view, the corporate world. In my rejection stemming from my confusion of feeling neither truly this nor that I’ve chosen to built an identity in being Muslim-Malaysian. This has generally worked in my personal life but I can’t say the same about professionally. I wonder if I’m looking at it all wrong – myself trapped in a non-progressive view of diversity – but for months now I’ve been trying to answer the question of, “Can I make it as far as my potential can take me with my headscarf intact and my soul not for auction?” A moral dilemma and I keep being told, “It’s you against yourself, you hold yourself back.” I don’t disagree with them – but I think they should try saying this again when they’ve stood on this side.
This year I attempt to read more books and write-ups (and have more conversations!) that challenge my perceived notions, belief, views and more on racial construct and what it means and feels like to be Muslim, female, and (sometimes)minority.