Can I have a word with You?

“Never waste your time trying to explain who you are to people who are committed to misunderstanding you.”

Lately I’ve realized, that for the past few years I’ve been on the defensive. I’ve been defending my choices to a lot of different people who don’t really matter. From classmates at the university, to nosey neighbours and on one occasion to even a random person at the supermarket, I’ve felt the need to stop and explain. My mind tells me not to. To simply ignore and go on but my heart wants to set things right. But what I’ve lately come to realize is that perhaps there is no setting somethings, or rather some people right.

I am a Muslim. I follow Islam. I have a good relationship with God. Agreed, I tend to reach out to him more when I am in distress than at any other time, but then don’t we all. I am also an Indian in a foreign land. I hold an Indian passport. I am a woman and I am brown. I am not size zero, or one or two. I wear a a size 14. I don’t cover my head. I don’t speak with an exaggerated Indian accent nor do I bob my head weirdly. I can run a mile in 13 minutes and I am comfortable and happy at the gym just as same as I am at the park, running after my 3 year old. I don’t carry bombs and I don’t wanna blow people up. And as I’ve lately been made very aware of, my currency is not US dollars. This is who I am and I don’t see much of this changing any time ever.

Why do you with your holier than thou attitude feel the need to question me? Yes you, you who wear a hijab, what makes you think that you are any better a Muslim than I am? Why? Because you cover your head? Did you just forget that ours is a religion that preaches tolerance? Please align your actions with what the religion preaches, your choice of clothes can follow later. And you, you who used to be my friend but have begun to avoid me since you came to know my religion. Does my faith really matter? You know me, you know the movies I like, the music I listen to. You laugh at my jokes, you like my Chicken Tikka, you think I make the best desserts, yet why did my fasting for a month scare you away from me? When did my religion begin to define me? Now you, yes you, the wide eyed woman in the plane, I see you stealing glances at my husband. Not cause you think he is hot, but because he has a beard and somewhere in your heart you believe this bearded man is going to blow up the plane. Did you not see his wife and his newborn child with him. Did you not see how lovingly he was cuddling the little one? Did you not see him helping me with everything? How could you only see a beard and fear us? How? Where is your common sense?

I am not even going to acknowledge you, you who thought a woman’s place was at her man’s feet. You do not deserve my words. I only have contempt for you.

Yes, I am an Indian but I am not a joke. Yes, the stereotypes speak weird. It sounds weird to us too. I laugh with you cause I can take a joke. Please grow up. I cannot believe you exist in today’s world were we are International citizens. How can you live in such a multicultural neighbourhood and harbor such a narrow mentality. Wake up, now! Your breed of narrow minded bigots are going out of fashion.

Which brings me to you, you who is the head of a multinational company. You, who is entrusted with getting the best resources to work for you. How could you look past my double Masters in Communication? How could you look past my years of experience? How could you not see I have an exemplary work record? How could you ignore my excellent academic credentials? How could you not even notice the amazing letters of recommendations my former employers wrote for me? How could you not see the passion in my voice? How could you only concentrate on my passport? How? When did my citizenship become more important than my capabilities? And how dare you tell me that you would have hired me if I had a Western citizenship? You would make great team with that narrow minded bigot. Peas in a pod anyone?

Speaking of peas, I like mine mushy with some butter on top. Thank you! If you, eating your 75 calorie salad, have an issue with it then so be it. I like my chocolate, I like my ice cream and I like my pizza. You skinny b******s, standing by the treadmill at the gym, appear shocked at this only cause secretly you want it too. Get on that treadmill and run a while and then perhaps, just perhaps I might listen to you. So enough with your ‘health guru’ mode, I’m bored already. I warn you, if you keep it up, I might chase you down and you know I can, you’ve seen me kill it on the treadmill, and what’s worse, I might sit on you and eat my bar of chocolate. So begone, weird women!

And finally you, you who truly shocked me last week. You were so nice to me on the phone. You did not detect a brown face at the end of the line. You welcomed me so warmly and you took my reservations with unflagging enthusiasm. Yet, when you saw me, I saw your smile dim a little. I saw it perk up again when our white friends joined us. I saw you tripping over yourself to make sure their every need was met while you somehow forgot to fill our glasses with water. You saw to it that all their song requests were played by the inhouse band while our request for a birthday song somehow got buried under piles and piles of requests. You shocked me cause I thought you were the last person who would discriminate based on colour, seeing how your race has always been victims to sad stereotypes and subsequent discriminations. I thought I would always have you on my side fighting these discriminations. You truly made me sad. And then you surprised me when I saw you wide eyed smile reappear as we brought out the US dollar bills to pay for the meal. And just like that, you were warm again. You offered a little treat for the road and walked us to the car. Just then, you made me realize the existence of a new kind of discrimination, one that was based on the currency we wield. I was blissfully ignorant to it until you came along. My colour did not matter, the currency in my hand did. Would you feel differently about us if you knew those were leftover bills from a vacation? That for our next visit (if there ever will be one) we will we using the local currency? Your currency? You amaze me.

So I’m done. I’m done trying to tell why I am the way I am. I’m done explaining my choices to you. I’m gonna shut my mind to you, just as you have shut your mind to me. You shall not have me anymore. I have as much a right as you to exist in this world. Not anymore, not any less but just as much as you. I will not shake my head and sigh deeply. I am done with that. I’m done defending.

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39 thoughts on “Can I have a word with You?

  1. Amen to that! You are perfectly you and have no reason to apologize or explain who you are. The sad fact is people judge everyone everywhere. It is sad but true. Don’t become them! That is the best revenge! ❤

  2. This instantly reminded me of one of my all time favorite quotes from a book. It’s from Life of Pi, “Hindus, in their capacity for love, are indeed hairless Christians, just as Muslims, in the way that they see God in everything, are bearded Hindus, and Christians, in their devotion to God are hat-wearing Muslims.” You’re absolutely right in this post, we’re all one in the same 🙂 And good for you to keep your head high and moving on! They’re not worth your time anyways

    • That is so beautiful. It just sums us all as one. The sad part is no matter money much we try to be one, there will pop up some other form of discrimination. Did you know about currency discrimination? I did not. I was shocked! The world sometimes can be so evil.

  3. You go girl!
    There’s a quote that I love: “Never waste your time trying to explain who you are to people who are committed to misunderstanding you.” I think that applies perfectly here.

  4. You rule, sister girl! I have a friend who is black as can be and he has a traditionally white name because his mother would tell you that men named Tyrone or LeDarius don’t always get called in for a job interview at the big corporations because of their names,wrong as it is, it’s totally true. Anyway, it’s hilarious when he talks to somebody on the phone and sets up an arrangement. 10 times out of 10 that I’m next to him, the person will extend a hand to me thinking that I’m the business contact he or she is supposed to meet. The look on their faces when B says uh, no sir, I’m who you’re here to see is priceless. While racism isn’t funny, sometimes it just is when it isn’t sad.

    • I understand. The currency discrimination got funny at a point when the until them weirdly acting man suddenly became our best friend. But at the end of the day discrimination is discrimination and that pisses me off..Thanks for you support though! I completely appreciate and love it 🙂

  5. Some people just hate everybody. If they don’t hate you because your skin is the wrong color, it’s because your hair is the wrong color, or your size, your age, what you’re eating or the color of your shirt. True friendship is so rare. I will say this, as long as you don’t have a problem with me not being Muslim, I have no problem with you being Muslim. Viva la difference. We all have more similarities than we have differences. And don’t let others’ ignorance get you down. If they took the time and trouble to know you, they would like you, but they aren’t worth your time. Hugs and blessing on you and yours!

    • You have no idea how touched I am by your comment. You don’t know me, our relation is perhaps only a couple of blog posts old, yet you get the essence of friendship something, a lot of my “friends” have not. My religion, my gender, my colour, my nationality and later my currency seems to be bothering a lot of people who have nothing to do with it. I’ve stopped trying to make them see the light. I’m letting them go. Its entirely their loss!

  6. Sadly there are racial bigots all over the world. I have friends of many colors and religions and while I like to learn about their cultures I have found for me it is best not to discuss their religious beliefs. They have theirs and I have mine. If its one thing this old man has learned over the years is there are two things I never discuss with friends that is religious beliefs and politics. That can be the best way to loose a close friend. My though has always been to each their own. This may be a simplistic view on my part but it has always worked for me.

    • I completely agree with. I never bring religion in to a conversation, not with friends, not with colleagues not with everyone. Intact I don’t tomtom my religion at all which is why most people don’t realise which faith I belong to. My clothing doesn’t reveal that, neither does my behavior..yet somehow when they get the wind of it, I’ve seen people take a step back. I am the same person you knew and hung out with, yet suddenly this new piece of information makes you see me in a different light? I don’t understand the rationale..

      • I wouldn’t even try to understand it. Some people are so set in their ways nothing you can say or do will ever get them to change their one sided outlook on life.

  7. Nenne, what a beautiful, powerful and open post. Brave and hard hitting. Sometimes there comes a point in life where we have to let certain people in our lives go, people we thought were friends. True friends, who love you for who you are, will remain. Discrimination can come in so many different forms.
    My daughter has Asperger’s Syndrome and she suffered a very personal crisis a few months ago, which in turn caused me to hide away for a time in an attempt to help her and find my own recovery. Those closest to me remained, family and a few real friends but other friends seem to have disappeared.
    Anything which makes us ‘different’ to the rest of the world also makes us stand out in an unwanted way. My daughter is bright, beautiful, creative, intelligent, a delight, but she has suffered rejection and discrimination by the way she dresses and projects herself, because her ‘styling’, although very attractive on her, it is not trendy and in our small Somerset town in the UK she stands out.
    I am proud to walk down the high street with her, but I see the smirks and the whispered comments, even from adults, that are directed her way. It breaks my heart but also makes me very angry on her behalf, I am a mamma bear!
    I am a Christian and when I lived in California my son had a close friend whose mother was from Malaysia and a Muslim who wore western clothing. We became good friends, she was a very kind and caring person, as I know you are.
    God bless you Nenne 🙂

    • You are so amazing with your kind words. If there were more people like you in the world we could all get along so well. People are cruel, I know and understand the annoyance you must feel when ignorant people turns their heads away or smirk at your daughter. Why can’t they accept a person for who they are? Why should they fall into our narrow minded mould for us to accept them? When I was thinking bout the discriminations I’ve faced, I was shocked..god, it almost looked like people have an issue with everything about me. That is not acceptable. It also pushes us the wrong way. When someone who knows me still judges me by my religion,I have half a mind to push my religion all over the place. You know what I mean..or if you will narrow your eyes when I ice some ice cream, then I feel like I am obliged to add another chocolate bar to it and devour it in front of you. It makes me behave out of character and I hate that. Thanks for your supportive comments. Let your daughter dress in every which was that makes her happy. People who don’t know her, have no business judging her. More power to her and you. 🙂

    • I did too. For the longest time. I am now trying to snap out of it. Those justifications won’t change closed minds, it will only waste your time and why waste time when you could be running at the beach or eating chocolate instead?

      • I read a quote the other day, something about it’s none of our business what others think about us. When you think about it, it’s really true, and should help alleviate our need to justify ourselves to others. We have very little time on this earth, so why waste it worrying about bigoted minds? 🙂

      • Absolutely! They have already made up their mind. Let’s not waste time trying to do the impossible. Lets climb Mt.Everest instead. 🙂 You in?

  8. You should never have to explain yourself else to anybody. None of that should matter to anybody but you. Remember, “Those who mind, don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

    Great post, by the way. Very open and honest, and no-one can ask for more than that. 🙂

    • Thank you! After ages of defensive arguments and explanations, I now know what you mean, those who matter truly dont mind. So no more explanations. Thanks for all your words of support! 🙂

  9. Wow what a great piece! I’ve never faced the kind of discrimination you have, but I understand exactly what you’re saying. So many people are incredibly shallow and narrow-minded. I much prefer the company of my non-judgemental cats 🙂

      • Definitely- although it may not change the discriminators’ private views, public opposition is an important step in shifting a culture that accepts and even fosters prejudice. This is an interesting video that someone sent me- it captures some ugliness, some cause for hope, and some well-deserved public shaming. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7R-QKDCCJM0

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