Just as Captain America is hardly seen without his shield, I’m hardly seen without my hijab. My hijab has become a part of my daily makeup. It’s how my friends, and sometimes my professors, identify me. It’s how I would identify myself if someone were looking for me. Without it, I’m a completely different person, inside and out.
I started wearing a hijab in the 5th grade in 2007, which I like to call my “discovery year.” Not only did I learn that women do not become pregnant from eating a lot of corn like my mother said, I also learned that the piece of clothing I would wear on my head would change how people view me as a person. My parents praised me for being so committed to the hijab, even though I was struggling to adjust to that major step in my religion and in my life. Of course, the other kids at school would ask me if I was bald underneath, completely omitting the fact that they had already seen my hair the previous school year. The temptation of taking my hijab off and letting my pretty hair out for just a day was always there, and it took me years to get rid of it. A lot of people would also view me as an unapproachable girl, when in fact, I’m the complete opposite. Maybe it’s because many people correlate modesty to timidness, but many are surprised at how outgoing and vocal I am, especially about social issues such as feminism, racism, and classism.
Time went on, and before I knew it I was in the seventh grade. Now by the seventh grade, I thought my schoolmates would mature just a bit, but I was obviously setting high standards for those kids, because they still questioned why I always smelled like African food, called me a nerd for excelling in classes, and were still making the assumption that I wore a hijab to cover my “bald head.” Although I got use to those kinds of questions, one thing I did not get used to was having my hijab snatched off by “curious” students.
As I was sitting at a table with a group of my friends conversing about the latest Hannah Montana episode, I felt my scarf being suddenly whisked away by a girl who shall remain nameless. She probably thought I was just some quiet girl who wouldn’t dare stand up to her, but the glare I gave her could rival that of Lady Tremaine’s from Cinderella. At that moment, the entire class’s attention was on me and the cornrows my mother braided into my hair. I was fully clothed, but I felt more naked than when I escaped from my mother’s womb. I was planning on confronting her the next day, but I saw there was no need as she was supposedly in a car accident. Don’t worry, she lived, but she came to school the next day with several casts on.
That day made me realized that with this piece of fabric beautifully wrapped around my head, I can easily stand out in a room full of monotony. The fact that I felt no pressure to have the prettiest hair allowed me to focus more on showing others who I truly am: a girl with a vibrant personality that always feels the need to be heard and not just seen. However, many people are shocked to find out how open-minded and unorthodox I am regardless of my strict religious following. Anytime you see that red, white, and blue shield with the star in the center, you better believe Captain America is behind it, just as I am beneath my hijab.
Written by Gahouray Dukuray