Unlearning My Name

Some things we do because other people are silently telling us to do them.

If you’re queer, you might act straight or cisgender because that’s what the world wants you to be. If you have dark skin, you might “act white” to blend in. If your native language isn’t English, perhaps you are reshaping your tongue so that it is impossible to tell that you aren’t from here.

These are Western behaviors governed by respectability and whiteness that dictate how we should behave. It’s easy to slip into the lull of these dictations, letting them offer a veil between normative living in a place like America and who you really are. Double consciousness: that’s what this is called.

Poet and producer Mohamed Hassan is undoing this behavior with his name. He’s reclaiming it, reforming the word after spending nineteen years mispronouncing it just so that he could pass. He’s done with that and he’s created a visual poem to proclaim this remaking of himself.

It is brilliant. Not only does he express a high-brow “be yourself” ethos but he confronts the West, confronts America, confronts whiteness but revealing his ethnoreligious truth. He will not hide. He will not bow to you.

Listen and watch the poem below. Also, are video poems a thing? If they aren’t, he’s making a great case for them.

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