I think I spent a lot of time denying my roots.
Denying who I was. “Colonizing” my mind and body, in a sense. Admitting to belonging to my culture but also striving to “not be like the others” – a problematic thought if there ever was one.
I grew up hating half of myself. But when you’re mixed race, the problem with hating half of yourself is that you can never tell where one half ends, and the other begins. So you essentially end up hating all of yourself.
And it was subtle, too. I always felt proud to be Indian. But any characteristic that was Indian? I saw it as ugly, and a trait that made me undesirable. From body hair, to my grandmother’s nose, I wanted to change things about myself but also felt stripped and raw when I contemplated being any different.
“Colonizing the body,” they call it. Where you try to suit a predominantly white aesthetic because we’ve been brainwashed to think that smooth silky hair and skin, plus narrow noses and other things, are “beautiful”. “Standard beauty,” I’ve caught myself saying in the past.
We women of colour are exotic, different, unique, other… all thinly veiled words for “strange”. From disliking my Indian nose, to feeling embarrassed about body hair that made me feel like I didn’t deserve to be desired… I’ve been my own worst enemy in many ways. Haven’t we all, as marginalized people? I still catch myself complimenting narrow noses as “perfect”, sometimes.
Eventually I found myself punishing myself when I didn’t get rid of my Indianness. If a man was distant or abusive, I claimed that it was my own fault for not looking after myself. That I didn’t deserve to ask for love when I hadn’t done any self-care that involves changing who or what I was naturally.
Problematic – but I’m also so grateful about the amount of people out there speaking about this. There are still so many scary people out there laughing at us being over sensitive, not realising that the “little” things we are concerned about are the tip of a large iceberg that cause black men and women to die for being born who and what they are.
You can’t even say that black lives MATTER without someone arguing. You can’t simply fucking state that a life MATTERS – not “black lives are more important” or “black lives deserve more attention”…. just saying that black lives MATTER is interrupted and steamrolled over in the same way people “discovered” existing lands and then celebrate these discoveries by ignoring the plight of the millions of people who were hurt in the process – and the descendants whose voices still go unheard today.
But let’s go to Coachella and colonize a little more by metaphorically stomping on sacred grounds in the form of appropriating outfits, hairstyles, and markings. And let’s not acknowledge or appreciate this phenomenon when it’s pointed out to us.
I am half white half Indian, but there is no line in me that clearly cuts the halfway mark. I am at a point where I don’t need to run away from looking Indian or have some form of whiteness to “balance” me out so that I can stand out.
I can stand out all by being my God damn self.
Honesty is a superpower.
There is no conclusion here – only a daily process of learning to love myself as a woman of colour, in a world where white is pure, smooth skin is dainty, and women like me would sometimes rather hide than announce themselves in a room.
Only to realise that our colour announces itself before we even have a chance to speak.
PS: Black lives still matter.
PPS: In a world that’s still relatively unsafe for women of colour, I ask my clients – who are predominantly from marginalised communities – to deliberately get vulnerable with me. Sound like something you’d be up for? Click here to start a conversation on how I may be of support to you.