It’s #ReclaimTheBindi week! I was explaining the concept of ‘selfies’ to my Nani (maternal grandmother) when we took these. While I have many pictures with her, these are the only selfies we have together. After I posted them to my instagram, she gently slapped my back as to why I did such a thing for the world to see. I did it because I’m proud to call her my grandmother. She’s one of the sweetest and most hardworking women I know. Up until the age of five, she raised me because my mom had to work to help my dad meet ends. There are so many stories this woman could tell you about me. One of them would be the time she fed me a banana while I was napping and I continued to chew even after there was no banana left. Yeah, I was a weird kid.
Even though we’ve been fighting the stigma, the backwardness in our country against women and often, we have to fight our own grandmothers… I cherish moments like these. Because in the end, no matter how much my mom or grandmother tell me to cross my legs and sit, or to not spend too much time outside or I’ll get a tan… We still love them.
I’m bad at captions but I wanted to share these two selfies and I love my Nani, okay. Peace. ✌🏻️
The problem with a lot of contemporary Punjabi music is that the lyrics are misogynistic, paternalistic, or just plain disgusting but the average person won’t care (or perhaps not even notice) because the beat’s poppin.
Just another reason we tend to be desensitized to hypermasculinity, aggression, and gender inequality.
“Make Some Friends that aren’t Brown” and other Microaggressions
There needs to be some serious discourse on this whole shaming of people only being friends “with their own kind” and views on “cultural enclaves.”
The first thing we need to address is how these “problems” are always associated with communities of colour. I have never heard this discourse happen about all-white friend circles.
Secondly, it is not that these communities are drifting away, rather they are have been pushed away. Now I know how weird that may seem, since Canada has multiculturalism and pluralism basically entrenched in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the constitution, but the reality is that we have not understood the real meaning of multiculturalism or pluralism. We treat multiculturalism as learning about the different holidays people celebrate, the different foods people eat, the different faiths people practice, and the different languages people speak and that’s about it. We do not go deeper than that.
Let’s talk about the issue of friend circles, and let’s call it what it is: a microaggression. A friend of my sister’s once told me that a faculty member of the high school she goes to told her that she should “make friends that aren’t brown,” because she hangs out with a group made predominately of South Asians. Why does this bother people so much? Why does a faculty member think it is okay to comment about an all-brown friend group? Would they do so with an all-white friend circle? Probably not, but I’ll address this later on.
We make friends with people who we relate to the most, with whom we share something in common with, or with people who understand us. Now the question of all-white groups is a different one because we lie in a country where that is the hegemony. However, make to my drifting away/being pushed away rhetoric, all-PoC friend circles emerge as a result of disenfranchisement from “mainstream” (aka North American WASP- White Anglo Saxon Protestant) society.
It’s not that my sister’s friend purposely created a “browns only” exclusive club, rather it happened as a natural process of being pushed away for being different. When I said we do not go deep enough into the concept of plurality and multiculturalism, one of the main causes is mainstream society’s failure to understand that cultures are different and the dynamics within these communities is going to differ from one to the other. Therefore, when I am hanging out with a group made up of predominately white people and talk about having to go home early because my mother needs help at home and I get mocked for being a “Momma’s boy” and I am deemed immature because people see me as a loser living out of my mother’s pocket, I am slowly going to begin to disassociate with them because they do not understand me or my cultural values. They may know my people hold one of the biggest gatherings of Sikhs outside of our motherland every April in Surrey for Vaisakhi, they may know that we wear colourful clothing and eat foods rich with spices, but do not understand that the dynamics of a Punjabi household are not those of the mainstream white middle class nuclear families. We do not move out at a certain age, and that our household dynamic is focused around a multi-generational network, not one couple and their adolescent children. However, when I am surrounded by other South Asians and I have to leave early, they understand why as they share a common cultural dynamic. Naturally I’m going to feel more comfortable with that latter group because I do not feel attacked, and I can be myself rather than trying to explain myself.
Such is the case with “cultural enclaves.” Many people get frustrated when they see Punjabi signs in South Van or Surrey, or Chinese signs in Richmond. However, what they don’t realize, because of the privilege they have of speaking the official language of the country they live in, is that as you get older your capacity and ability to learn a new language and be able to be fluent in it decreases exponentially. When you take an immigrant who has spoken a completely different language their entire life, and catapult them into a system where they are expected to speak an entirely different tongue, what you get is a giant culture shock. They will NOT be able to speak as fluently and clearly as a native English speaker, and rather than being understood in a society that is supposed to embody multiculturalism- and understand that languages outside of English exist- they are faced with xenophobia and impatience. I have seen way too many clerks and service workers get exasperated and belittle non-English speakers, and this may be a shocker to some folks, but constantly facing such treatment takes a toll on you. Hence, pushed away from society, people create a community within a community so that they may be able to function efficiently and with dignity. They can go buy bread, make a payment at the bank, or go to the doctor and be able to communicate everything efficiently in their mother tongue and not have to face ridicule.
Here in the Punjabi neighbourhoods of Surrey, my mom can walk around wearing a full salwar kameez and that’s the norm. When I go to Guildford Mall, I see uncles and guys my age rocking kurte pajame. If I were to cross the river wearing anything remotely “ethnic” though, I would face stares and looks. Forget a kurta pajama, as a practicing Sikh I always have a turban on my head, and even if I am wearing head-to-toe “western” clothing, the six meters of cotton around my head often make me a target for microaggressions, and sometimes even full-out aggressions, and the feeling of that almost constant vigilance takes a toll on you. Some days, as soon as I drive into my neighbourhood I breathe a sigh of relief knowing that I do not stick out here, that I am a part of a community here, and I do not need to worry about such constant vigilance. It’s at those moments that I realize that is cultural enclave I live in is not a result of my people being exclusive and not wanting to include Anglophone Canadians, rather this enclave is a result of a society that views itself as post-racial, when in reality it is still riddled with racist and ethnocentric ideologies and viewpoints. We saw this in the past too, 100 years ago when the Punjabi community first arrived on the shores of Vancouver, many Sikh men would only eat at Chinese restaurants because they did not face the racism from white-owned restaurants. The manner of the racism has become more discrete now, but the problem and the lack of dignity people feel is still there.
Every first of July, or whenever the concept of Canadian pride comes up, people bring up the pluralistic analogy Pierre Trudeau used when bringing in the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms- Canada is a mosaic of people. However, one must understand that a true mosaic is made up of tiles that are each unique in shape and colour, and when you expect the tiles to all be the same, or when you cover up certain tiles and hide them with the grout that is meant to hold them up, what you have left is no longer a mosaic.
We need to let go of this idea that Canada is a perfect utopian multicultural society. Yes we have it legislated, but we must embody it too. We need to stop silencing people who attempt to bring such things into light, otherwise you are simply contributing to the problem. Analyze yourself and the microaggressions you hold.
Stop blaming communities of colour for being in enclaves, and work to fix the society that has pushed them into such situations instead.