Muslim Girl in America

I'm an American girl, born and raised, and a Muslim.

A Race(ism) to the Finish

on May 9, 2012

What is it about me that makes other people want to treat me … poorly, shall we say. Do I have a sign on my head, or am I releasing “Take advantage of me” pheromones ? Are people threatened of me? By me? Are they afraid of me? Are they afraid of what they don’t know; a culture or life they don’t understand? Why do they feel a need to keep me down? I’ve been pushed aside for promotions, training, and more – is it because I’m a woman? Am I assuming racism where there is none?

I’m very bad at reading people sometimes. Okay oftentimes. I assume people are overall decent and good, and we all know what happens to people who assume. Every leadership role I have been in I have done fairly well. I work just as hard or harder than the next guy or gal, but I’m going nowhere. It’s as though I’m on a treadmill trying to run a marathon in the street – staying in one place while everyone else runs by me, around me, and over me, stabbing me in the back along the way. Perhaps I’m not ambitious enough. Is that it? More ambition=Being taken seriously?

Not all Muslim girls I know have had this problem. In fact, some of them have been very successful in their careers (and I’m talking about the non-medical career folks here). So, is it then a question of my personality? I have never been very gregarious or outgoing, but I am kind, considerate, and friendly – at least most of the time. I am a good person with good values and a strong sense of ethics, and I’m not bad to look at either (I’m humble, too – did mention that?), so why am I repeatedly ignored for promotions or treated like s@!t at work?

I know everyone is different – perhaps it’s just my bosses themselves?  Let’s examine their behaviors.

Boss #1: Let’s call her Trina (btw, names have been changed to protect the innocent, and the non-so-innocent). I was working in a coffee shop (which was part of a national chain) when Trina was my boss. She always had a smile on her face, didn’t mind doing the dirty work (as opposed to other bosses who make everyone else do those tasks), and was overall a good boss. But she repeatedly, and deliberately I found out, kept me from trainings that would advance my career at the store and with the company. One time she passed me over for someone who was a less than ideal employee (and by that I mean he often didn’t show up for his shifts, preferred to use drugs, and, while he was personable, should not be in a position to lead others). At this time, I had been with the company for almost a year, had proven my worth as an employee and as someone trustworthy, but I still wasn’t taken seriously.

Boss #2: Let’s call him Vincent. Vincent was a boss of mine at a clothing store I worked at (also a national chain). He was a lot like Trina: always upbeat and not a bad manager overall. But he also deliberately kept me from moving up in the company. At that time, I had been with the company for almost a year (again), and had proven my worth (again), but I still wasn’t taken seriously.

Current Bosses #3&4: Let’s call them Jerk and Lame, respectively (you should be aware that I actual call them much more colorful curse-esque nicknames, but am restraining myself so as not to offend anyone). Now I have had a few bosses between Trina and these two, but these are my most frustrating and emotional bosses. Jerk is the president in our organization. I started there as an intern and was hired on (in a much different position than I am in now).  Prior to taking on this new position, I did not deal with Jerk as much. Did not deal with Lame, our vice-president, as much either. In my current position, I deal with them All. The. Time. Jerk is cooking the books (financially, that is) and lying to our Board of Directors. When I realized that in my new position, I called him on it. He yelled, called me stupid, worthless, said I didn’t know how to do my job, and a whole host of other unprofessional and untrue things. He also told me this just as I was leaving work on a day I found out my Dad was admitted to the hospital, and I would leave work to go home, pack, and drive 10 hours back home to go see him. Yeah, now you know why I use stronger language than Jerk. Where was Lame in all of this? Why, he was sitting in the same room, letting Jerk say those untrue things to me, and basically condoning his actions. Lame, I realized then, is the type of person who will sell you out if it serves him (so he is basically as selfish as Jerk) and does not care about the other employees (just like Jerk). Again, since I am terrible at reading people, I did not realize this until too late. And now I am yelled at and told I’m worthless on a daily basis and my ideas, which are pretty great, are laughed off until someone else mentions them and then they’re brilliant. Now these are 2 very useless human beings (and I don’t use that phrase loosely – but I think you can agree that anyone who uses threats, abuse, or condones such actions toward others are not very helpful to society) who have discriminated against me in more ways than one.  So in this case, perhaps it’s more than I’m just a Muslim. Perhaps it’s because I’m a woman (other women there have not been treated as bad as me, but are not always taken seriously either). I should point out that a woman originally hired me for the internship and for the paid position afterwards.

So how can you define when something is discriminatory because of your race? Or your sex? For me, it’s hard to tell. I can only hope that my next job – which, inshAllah (aka if God wills it), should be soon – I won’t have a jerk or a condoning jerk supervising me.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for reading!

-MK

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