I have a real problem with the word ‘brown’, and other colour-centric words where they pertain to skin.
For some, they are exaltations of pride, affirmations of identity and fervent ownership of a feature that has been used to discriminate against them and others seen as similar, a reclaiming and redefining of something natural and beautiful that has often been warped to signify something dirty and alien, to be feared and answered with prejudice, aggression and actions that match these sentiments- I sincerely understand, empathise with and support the desire and, for some, need to assert their identity in this way. However, for others, like myself and, for example, those of mixed ethnicity whose ethnic background is not visible in their skin- rather, the stereotypes of how a person of their background is expected to look- I find these words completely isolating and alienating, eliciting the sentiments of not belonging like others because I don’t look or behave in a certain, expected way.
I do not and have never looked ‘typically Panjabi/Indian/South Asian’: this is an attitude and reaction wholly entrenched in stereotype, and it is wholly fucked-up. For a natural feature, where used by some to unify in strength and similarity, I have found and find that it is often also used as a way to seperate those who don’t have so-called easily identifiable features, superficial cues that are used to establish whether or not someone is ‘one of you’- for those who understand the persecution of being singled-out because of their skin tone, in this example, it is quite the malevolent hypocrisy to do the same to others for the same reason, because they don’t look like you or present superficially in a way that you expect and accept, regardless of whether or not there are commonalities in ethnicity or culture or anything else. Maybe it is unconscious bias, paired with a lack of introspection to understand how they/you actually feel about things- maybe you’ve never or rarely questioned or addressed your true thoughts and feelings and how they influence your actions- or, maybe it is entirely conscious and certain people do only want to associate with people who look like them, because the similarities give their arguments and intentions a visual strength, a simple identity that is easier for others, and/or themselves to digest: it’s less complicated if people of Panjabi descent all have similar skin tones, hairstyles and dress senses, for example; this thought extrapolated to other cultures in India, and countries and cultures in South Asia, Asia and so on throughout the world. It is not solely limited to skin colour: dress sense, music taste, ‘ethnic abilities’ (i.e. whether you can cook ‘your’ cuisine, speak the language(s) of your relatives and progenitors etc) and others are all used to divide people- I sincerely believe that people make up these so-called rules as they go along, in order to exert some manner of ego-driven superiority over others, to make themselves feel better about their authenticity of identity by trying to belittle and poke holes of insecurity in how others express theirs.
There is no one way to express your culture or identity, it is for you to decide and define in whatever way you wish, and not looking like a group, however small or large, does not mitigate the authenticity in your being or truth and validity in how you express yourself and the things that comprise you. You don’t even have to be part of a group- lonely and demoralising as that is, I know, but, if you know yourself and have unshakeable strength and belief in your own being, nobody can divorce from you the things you know and treasure with your core, your entire essence. I am and can be anything that I want to be: it is not in anybody else’s authority how I define or express myself, nor can anybody claim or discredit any aspect of my, or anybody else’s person based on their own so-called rules, ideas and (mis)perceptions.
I hope that people thoroughly read and think about this, though I really doubt it- my social media experience is rife with endeavours to try and engage in intelligible, thoughtful discussion with others, but it rarely materialises. My biggest irk is people who do concern themselves with similar topics, such as the ones mentioned, yet there appears the very tangible and veritable behaviour of wanting only to discuss with others in an accepted group, which echoes points I have made in this thread. If you have read and engaged, sincerely, openly, wholly, I thank you and do look forward to hearing your thoughts, if, at all, you would like to share them.
I wrote and shared this for myself, and for anyone else who empathises with the feelings expressed. The piece was, initially, a thread that I shared on Twitter a few days ago and, apart from a couple of punctuation alterations and recrafting the structure to suit a blog post, the content and sentiments are the same.
Throughout my life so far, I have become all too unwillingly familiar with the feelings of isolation and exclusion due to the tiresome and repetitive behaviours- actions and responses towards me from copious others- that have habitually resulted, and continue to result in me feeling as I have described. I have never and don’t now feel embraced and/or accepted as part of a group, or numerous groups, and that is not for lack of me wanting to be or trying desperately to connect and unite. And it is a type of desperation, not in the sense of grovelling and begging people to listen to and include me- although, in several circumstances, this has, persistently and increasingly, been the case- but in the manner of continually exhausting myself in order to understand how I can get through to people and, also what it is about my person that makes so many people so resistant to me- or, equally confounding and distressing, indifferent to my efforts and intentions. I’m sure- entirely certain, in fact- that there are people who would say that the reason(s) for my exclusion is/are completely my own fault, because I haven’t tried and don’t try enough to integrate or bend to the rules of their company: I wouldn’t call myself uncompromising, but there is a difference between connecting with others and enjoying being a part of their circle, if you like, whilst also retaining your own independence of thought, movement and individuality and, being expected, or forced to sacrifice these things in order to be an accepted person- in countless circumstances, my experiences have been the latter, which is something that I have never supported or participated in.
I seem, so far, to have had an inordinate number of experiences where I have been excluded from groups, or not been invited or permitted to enter, some, due to reasons about which I can only speculate or drive my head through a wall trying to figure out, and others with very tangible actions and viewpoints personally endured. My view of being part of a group is not one where everybody looks the same, thinks the same or even has the same motivations and intentions for life, one where people are joined by a desire to further an exclusionist, self-serving (limited to the group and the individuals within) agenda (gossiping about the personal lives of others, or the notion that all information about someone’s personal life is up for grabs, for a couple of examples), but rather a place- apparently, one that exists only as an idea, at the moment- where people of diverse thoughts, personal expressions, experiences and motivations are together, united by commonalities, but, most importantly that they respect each other’s person, points of view and are not joined by superficial markers of so-called togetherness. I feel like I have been ostracised and not considered as a valued, viable entity for many reasons, one of the most prominent and recurring being that I do not wear all, or a significant percentage of my knowledge, my associations, my influences, about anything and everything, on my person, as signals for people to notice. Few people do, and I am one among the first individuals who will stand up for the fact that there is so much more to people, to everyone, than what you see on the outside, however, my persistent personal experience has been that, overall, people are reluctant and unlikely to give you a look-in, to want to give you any time and kindness and consideration, unless you have a quality, physical, or something that they choose to assume about you, that is digestible to them- and some don’t want to know the depths and intricacies and complexities of a human life, they would just rather the detached, easy route of assumption, or wilful ignorance of the truth of individual experience. This hesistance and abject lack of want to get involved is not who I am, I will sincerely and openly talk to anyone, and I certainly won’t fob anyone off or withdraw from them without being clear and honest about my feelings, so they don’t spend their time assuming the worst about me, the worst about themselves that made me react a certain way: as much as I can, I will always be open and lucid about my behaviours and the thoughts and feelings behind them, as a matter of empathy and decency, but a level- ideally, equal- of introspection on the part of the other person into their own behaviour is also required – unfortunately for myself, I have rarely been on the receiving end of this consideration, even if I have begged people to be open and honest with me. I understand and empathise with the feeling of not wanting to hurt anyone with undressed words, but, I can tell you, it hurts far more to speculate ad infinitum about what is ‘wrong’ with you, than being able to draw a line and move on knowing someone’s defined (at that particular time) thoughts and feelings- or, in a perfect situation, being able to understand each other and move on, positively evolved, together. Even if what they say stays with you and affects you for an unspecified amount of time, at the very least, you have the reference of their true feelings being shown, made known to you, instead of the abyss of not understanding what it is you did, or whether it was anything you did at all to elicit their behaviours. If you or the other person/people care, that is; as I said, most would rather not understand, but stay in their chosen assumptions if they can fabricate an explanation that suits their feelings and props up their misjudgement, if it makes them feel better about and justifies their own actions to themselves. I referred to the former in the initial piece and, in that context, I feel that the lack of stereotyped and so-called typical signs on my person of being of Panjabi/North Indian/Indian/South Asian descent equate to me being seen as ‘not desi enough’ and, being seen as substandard, a kind of bastard in my ethnic background. When this notion is applied to broader areas, aside from my heritage, it is the case of not being ‘easy to read’ or able to be simplified by my appearance, as I don’t have a ‘strong’ outward look that can be claimed and categorised. That may sound quite arrogant, it’s really not meant to be- the point I’m trying to reinforce is that my appearance, in fact, has worked and works against me when it comes to being a part of things with other people and, sometimes, people just want to nitpick and derogate for the sake of it.
It’s not a case of just being content within myself and having confidence and grounding in my thoughts and feelings, my being on the inside and out and standing sure in singularity, because I don’t want to be alone and I do not deliberately isolate or seperate myself from others, or others from me, unless there is just and significant reason to do so. I try to communicate and convey myself- my thoughts, my emotions, my heart- through the things I say and my actions- too often, though, I feel as if the majority people are quick to give me less of the time of day than they give others, or none at all; certainly less than I give them, significantly so. It doesn’t make you liked, in this instance, to talk about loneliness, to be open about your worries and woes, for example, without there being a more convoluted intention attached to it, one of popularity and ambitions of being part of a movement, or movements, that are given sound and attention because they are in fashion, which, then, does give people a platform to discuss and do whatever they want further on because they have already been given a voice and regard for their identity- people part of a group, or groups, who see themselves as individuals, but who can’t support or maintain their individuality or asserted identity without others around them, similar to them, propping up their personas and actions: it takes oceans of courage and resolve to do this without the crowds and fanfare and, the majority of the time it is a deserted place to exist, let alone try to live.
I feel like my life so far has been and is forever overflowing with the strain to make my voice heard, regardless of the tone, volume, or register, within even my writing: nobody seems to want to notice you unless you have something they desire, something they can sell and exploit, or unless you are attached to something(s) or someone(s) that are recognised- everybody wants to be in the know, nobody wants to be left out, so, instead, they latch on. In my case, maybe it is me: I don’t want to latch on, I want to connect and cultivate relationships that mean something, have foundations that drive to the core. Maybe a rarity of people want to know what I have to say, to contribute, who I am, what I am about- want to know me– because all of those things aren’t what people want- maybe I’m not what people want, because of, or no matter how I look, how I feel, what I think or how I express myself, on the inside or out, about anything, for the reasons shared or infinite others that I don’t and, likely will never know about.