Hi. My name is Ashley. I’m a new media journalist, and a long time ago, at a former publication, I wrote an insensitive story about a conservative Muslim woman.
This woman was my then-boyfriend’s mother. To briefly summarize the sequence of events, I published a bitter rebuttal piece in September 2015 centering on her open rejection of my romantic relationship with her son. The story quickly went viral, gaining traction on the home website as well as large aggregators, such as Yahoo and MSN. There are a few moments throughout my career — which, at 22, is in the beginning stages — that weren’t exactly shining, and this was certainly one of them.
Still today, the story is frequently reposted, and to this day, the story bites me in the rear end.
There’s no perfect way to express regret, so allow me to simply dive in head first, here: I’m deeply sorry for the way I portrayed the Islamic faith in the piece. It’s no excuse for the insensitive nature of the content and the sweeping generalizations I made about Muslims, but I’d like to acknowledge my white, American-born, middle class, culturally Christian privilege, and the egregiously narrow lens through which I recounted my narrative.
The article is inherently flawed in its blatant stereotyping, but specific phrasing I used (“Islam is pretty hardcore,” for example) stirs in me a physiological stress response. One, because of the obviously poor rhetoric, and two, because of the bias I was projecting onto the Muslim community.
In the interest of candor, my views at the time were dismally reflective of this nation’s current racial and religious divides. Here at Carbonated.TV, we report on those divides, and we call out mistreatment of marginalized groups as we see fit. It’s ironic, then, that I’m calling out my own discrimination, but it's vitally necessary.
I’d like to make clear that I wasn’t looking to change the religious beliefs of my then-partner or his mother; I was merely asking for a chance, which I felt unfairly stripped of. I wanted her to set aside our personal disparities in the interest of getting to know the person I was relative to my partnership with her son, and I was never afforded the opportunity.
However, to attribute all of this to her “strict” faith — and failing to acknowledge the strict nature of many, many faiths, including Catholicism, which I’ve since shed ties to — was a serious error on my behalf. She’s a mother with strong convictions about her spirituality and her family. This is not unique to Islam, and I shouldn’t have depicted it as such.
Overall, the article reads as defensive and resentful, but it’s imperative I mention I pursued the relationship knowing full well our cultural differences might have hindered our time together. For this, I take responsibility. In the end, the relationship terminated for reasons entirely unrelated to his familial ties or religious background.
They say human experience is essential for personal growth, and, in hindsight, I held prejudiced ideas about Islam without even realizing it until after the fact. Needless to say, I am now aware, and I apologize.
Now, if you’ll kindly leave me to it, I believe I have more discrimination to call out.
Banner/thumbnail credit: Flickr user Isa Sorensen