“Had I have had more exposed to people like me and more of my culture in the media, I wouldn’t have been so ashamed of it for 17 years”

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As far as I can remember I don’t recall that many Indian Asians being in the media as I was growing up. Obviously there is the Massood family in Eastenders who have been around for quite a while, and whilst they do aid representation of brown Asians, they are Muslim. If there is a ‘token’ brown family in any show they are usually Muslim and as a Sikh it would be nice to see some Sikh’s or even Hindus being represented as well. A lot of ignorant people confuse the turban to be a symbol of Islam and they can’t be totally blamed for that because there is a lack of exposure for them to be able to make that identification.
I think the first Asian I could relate to was Ellen from Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging. Other than that it seems a lot of Asians are presented within stereotypes of being incredibly clever or weird and socially awkward. This could have detrimental identification issues specifically ones with self-fulfilling prophecy and feelings of inadequacy. As someone who is not overly academically gifted, I know I always felt a bit inferior because I was ‘supposed’ to be clever which put a lot of pressure and anxiety onto me as I always felt I had to perform well.
Again, the parts I remember of my education, I don’t recall much that I could relate to. What I know about Indian history is what my parents have told me. I didn’t even know Indians and Sikh’s played such a fundamental part in the war, until my parents told me a few years ago. I don’t remember studying any Indian literature/poets. When Bollywood makes an appearance in the dance curriculum, a lot of people don’t take it seriously and make fun of it. I remember feeling horribly embarrassed about that.
Diversity and representation is so important. I did not learn to embrace my culture and love my skin until year 12. That’s a whole 17 years of my life where I thought it was better to be white. I remember at primary school I used to come home and pray to be white. I used to think of ways I could turn my skin white, concluding that it wouldn’t be so bad to paint my skin white everyday so I could  be ‘normal’. I was embarrassed of my culture. Whenever we had Indian weddings my sister and I used to check the ‘coast was clear’ from our bedroom windows, before running to the car to hide our traditional wear. It was painful to walk around in public with my aunties who wore traditional clothing. We used to snap at my mum for speaking Punjabi in public because people would stare. We even sprayed the house excessively so it didn’t smell like curry when our friends came over. The lengths we went to to hide our culture were so extreme and heartbreaking as I reflect.
 The only reason I started to embrace my culture was because I went to such a diverse sixth form. Simply being around other POC showed me that my skin colour was normal. I was normal. I started to draw parallels to other cultures, particularly my Black African friends and noticed our cultures and parents are so similar. It made me realise that my parents and our cultural traditions weren’t weird and I started to appreciate in see the beauty in these traditions. This is why representation is so important. Had I have had more exposed to people like me and more of my culture in the media, I wouldn’t have been so ashamed of it for 17 years. I would have learned acceptance of myself much earlier.
On one family holiday to Cornwall, a very young while girl kept staring at us. Her father came over and apologised explaining how ”she doesn’t mean to be rude, she has just never seen a POC before”. Obviously we took no offence on the matter, she can hardly be blamed. However, this highlights the importance of representation in the media and the curriculum.
Kids are very impressionable and all they want is to fit in. Diversity and representation can bridge the gap there is between BMEs and whites and can push forward to a more united world where we are one. By learning about each other’s backgrounds we can gain a better understanding of everyone’s cultures. This understanding can lead towards a more accepting and appreciative society and will build the foundations for a more equal and less racist world.
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