By Reyam Jamaleddine, August 20 2023—
A culture not of my own identity or origins but one that has accepted me in my difference and nurtured me as such. Teaching me the ways of difference through the difference of their own, guiding me through my inability to adopt an identity of origin. Given space to learn and grow under the mentorship of those who don’t identify with my own. Setting aside a meandering culture of mine, I marvel and engulf myself in the cultures of the women that I grew up so closely with. Women who shaped and cultivated who I am today. South Asian women, South Asian culture — Indian women.
An introduction to a language vastly different from the ones that are shaped for my tongue taught me the simplicities of Punjabi and Hindi intricacies. Inability to pronounce and inability to memorize, but still mesmerized by the beauty of a language that holds a riff to my mother tongue.
I found and still find appreciation for literature I can relate to so closely yet written from different worlds, different but sitting at arms reach on a map. Unappreciative of the overlaps I indicate, some of my people scoff at my admiration. Scoffing at my possessed betrayal of a people of my own or an identity of my own, still I emerge in my appreciation of the beauty of remarkable people.
Princess Jasmine, the unnecessary collision of two worlds. The erasure of two groups of people. The moulding of my identity with the identities of those who I have grown up so closely with. The Arabian princess or perhaps the South Asian princess. Worlds so vastly different yet, I hold an admiration of the same calibre for the other. Eruptions of debate about who Jasmine is, and who her identity coincides with by pointing out the beauty that emerges in the film or by the princess’s actions or appearance. Overlapping in similarities, yet I find it to be undemanding and effortless to hold admiration for both as mutually exclusive entities. It may be, I guiltily find the misrepresentation of cultures as a mirror held to the misrepresentation of myself. Similarly, the misrepresentation of a culture found within Princess Jasmine is mirrored in society when conversations about preference emerge.
Mutually exclusive entities that I have had the honour and privilege of engaging with. The South Asia I have encountered is diverse in every sense. Never the same South Asian, never the same language or the same culture. Never two people are the same. Yet for some, by preconceived notions, two are nothing but the same. The erasure of a culture is not by preferences, but by bigoted hatred for a race or group of people that perhaps an individual has not had the opportunity to encounter.
Basing perceptions of a people on the ideas that fixate and grow in the back of a mind, ideas that deem a person to be ugly before ever realizing the existence of the person. Stripping away the presence of beauty without the disclosure of humanization.
Without the intention of establishing and posting myself up on a higher moral ground, as conventional as it is deemed to be — a preference based on race or ethnicity is a strong micro-aggression rooted in prejudice and biases. For whatever purpose is established as justification for situating oneself in the power to call an entire people ugly, I bring to you the experience I had as an individual growing up with the values that South Asian culture has given to me. Not a bargain of pity, not my heroic saving of a culture not of my own. But for my confusion about a self-revocation for ordinary human experience. Parading about on platforms such as TikTok to make bigotry and hatred heard and echoed is not an exclamation of preference, but a theatrical making of biases and prejudice.
What race wouldn’t you date: a question that begs an obvious bigoted answer where preference becomes a justification for cruel and foolish prejudice against an entirety of a people.
An encouragement for the enlightenment of thoughts. Notwithstanding the facts of a people not needing acceptance or admiration — far from it. It would serve as a benefit to be enlightened with South Asian literature by poets and writers such as Anuradha Bhowmik, Valmiki Ramayana, Jaspreet Singh, Sabaa Tahir, as well as known and appraised poet Rupi Kaur.
The lack of intention with the words we use holds strong perplexity in the people who receive them. It is important to recount the intention of using the term preference, and perhaps begin to use a positive intention with the words we all choose.
This article is a part of our Voices section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.