How do you deal with racism?

Because I’m starting to realize I haven’t got a freakin clue.

I don’t get it either, man! I’m a Punjabi Sikh living in the Bible Belt and I hear racism ALL THE TIME. Literally on a daily basis. You’d think I’d have my retaliation routine down-pat by now, right? But I’m realizing that I don’t. I mean, if someone’s racist to me, I would love to write them a nice solid paragraph in reply addressing the faults of what they said, like Balpreet Kaur with the whole Reddit situation, but what are you supposed to do when someone just makes a a quick racist comment to you in person? That’s what I’m going to try and figure out. Luckily, I’ll have plenty of opportunities to try different strategies 🙂 So anyways, what I’m going to start doing is, every (insert unit of time here), I’m going to post about my most recent experiences of people being racist towards/bullying me or others, and I’m going to like, analyze how I handled the situation lol. Okay, this sounds weirder and more complicated than it actually is, so I’m just going to start now, and you’ll see 🙂

SCENARIO 1:

So there I was walking from my school building to my bus after school let out one day a couple of weeks ago. There are some 2,500 kids in my school, so when I felt something tug on my backpack, I figured it was just an accident or something. But I think deep down I knew it was a white guy entertaining his friends by pulling on the small Indian girl’s backpack. My suspicion was confirmed when I turned around and there was white guy. We made eye contact, and in that moment, I was frantic in my mind. Not because I was like omg what just happened what what omg. No, because I, once again, didn’t know how to respond. Did I laugh with the guy and his friends? I’m ashamed to admit that that’s what I usually do when this kind of thing happens. But for some reason, the last thing I felt like doing this time was laughing at my own expense, yet again. So I settled for just facing forward and continuing to walk to my bus, as he and his friend laughed and walked to their cars. Okay. I was just annoyed about it afterward, not because I had been picked on, but because I wished I’d handled it better. I reacted the way they assumed the Indian girl would, by not defending myself. But I don’t wish that I had reacted in a way that would surprise them, so much as I wished I’d acted in a way that would have satisfied me. I mean, if I end up reacting totally tough-like, that would surely change their opinions about Indian kids, which would be great, but more than that, I should have another goal, which is to make sure I am okay. If I totally schooled them, that would be great, but that’s not my job. My job is to look out for me. And if keeping my mouth shut and walking away made me happier than schooling them, than that’s what I should have done. Unfortunatley, at the end of the day, I wasn’t happy with how I responded, and I think saying something, even so much as a, “Don’t touch my stuff,” would have made me feel better, and hopefully is what I will do next time.

At least I didn’t laugh though. I think I’d give my reaction a C.

SCENARIO 2:

Alright, so this. There are a good number of black kids in my 4th period, and one day I heard them jokingly asking my teaching if she was afraid of black people. She said no. And so one of the kids was like, “So if you were sitting in your car in (insert name of high-crime city here), and a bunch of black people started approching you, you wouldn’t be scared?” I wasn’t really listening to the conversation, but that’s when a girl who I’m pretty friendly with, let’s call her….idk what’s an uncommon name…Ariel, Ariel as in the Disney princess, yes….comes up to me, smiling, and says, “I mean, honestly….”  She meant that, “honestly,” she would be afraid if black people walked up to her car.

Oh boy.

This is what I like to call the cute racist. The cute racist often portrays his or herself as the victim of all the other races they encounter, and usually throws around remarks that coincide with this mindset, in a small voice that they think will make their comment less offensive. So I said to her, “I mean, anyone-” and here I was about to say that if anyone walked up to my car, I would be afraid, not just black people, but Ariel interrupts me before I could finish, and as though to finish my sentence fore me, she goes, “anyone would be afraid.” No Ariel. I was not about to say that anyone would be afraid of black people walking up to their car. That’s not….no. There was like, this awkward pause, and I finished saying what I was actually saying, and catching on quickly she’s like, yeah, and totally agrees with me. Sigh.

Anyways, I think I’d give my reaction a nice B here. While I’m glad I didn’t just not say anything, I kind of wish I’d been a little less friendly. This girl genuinely offended me, and so I think I should have voiced that.

AND LASTLY

SCENARIO 3:

First off, let me just tell you. The amount of awkward moments that arise when you’re a brown person and you have to do a group project on terrorism, I swear to God. The three girls in my group are all pretty cool, though, luckily. One girl is quite conservative though, but she recognizes that, and she’s made an effort to stay away from discussing both gay rights and terrorism to avoid conflict in our group. Like, she doesn’t try to start stuff, you know? I’ve known this girl since like, 6th grade, and I really do like her. However one little thing came up the other day. One group member was researching Saddam Hussein, and on of the ads that comes up on her google search was for people on Facebook named “Hussein.” So the girl who was researching it goes, “no, google, I’m not looking for people on Facebook with the last name Hussein!” I think just meant like, no this isn’t what I was searching for! But it kind of came across as, no I don’t want to be friends with any Husseins! But I knew that that’s not what she meant, and so I just laughed. But then the conservative group member goes, “Well, I mean, Obama’s middle name is Hussein, so…” Now if it was anyone else, it would be possible that they just said that to defend the last name Hussein by saying that it was our president’s middle name too. But I know that this girl is not supportive of Obama, so I’m pretty sure she meant it as a dig at Obama. But there’s nothing wrong with having the last name Hussein. Before I knew it, I was all, “And I have friends with the last name Hussein.” Now technically, I just have a friend of a friend with that last name, and of course there’s Lehmber Husseinpuri, who’s everybody’s friend, I think. Mainly I was just trying to get my point across that there are people other than Saddam Hussein who have that last name. Anyways, there was a small silence that followed before we went about our research, but I’m glad I said what I did, you know?

Okay, well, those weren’t too bad of situations to be in. I know some kids go through a lot worse.

So I think what I’ve learned from this…session?….is that it makes me feel best when I actually say something in response to racism/bullying. Next time it happens, I’ll keep that in mind, and I’ll be sure to let you guys know how it goes down.

Also, I just have about 5 tests left before I’m free for the summer. Thank you so much for being patient with these crappy posts in all of their mistaken spelling and grammar glory. I promise they’ll get better soooooooooooon!!!!

Have a great week!

-M

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2 thoughts on “How do you deal with racism?

  1. jennynilsson says:

    good piece of writing!

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