Recently, there has been a buzz in the air, like the humming of electricity but with more oomph. There have been protests, arrests, signs in the sky, and a change in perception. Laws and legislations have been passed. But with no justice comes no peace, as there is so much more to be done. We are in the midst of a chapter in our history books, yet we need to take a minute to look at what is embedded so deep into our system that it ripples across the planet.
Racism has always lurked in the shadows, taking its vulnerable victims through covert operations. At first racism could show its ugly face freely in the streets, but as more people spoke out, the more it had to hide. But instead of growing weaker, its drawn strength from those attempting to do the same thing. And now? Now, it is one of the strongest elements in the universe. It slips into every interaction we have, everything we do, from the likelihood of getting a job to the chance we’ll make it to a major university. It even slithers its way into the medical field, even though an oath is taken to treat everyone equal no matter creed or color. It is so ingrained in our system that we’re convinced to believe it ourselves. It seeps into our blood, into our words, and even our self-worth.
When it comes to Pakistani people, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Is it the cuisine, the clothes, or the films? Do you think the words Pakistani and Indian are interchangeable, not realizing it’s like calling a Scot, English, or a Canadian person an American? Or are your thoughts a little darker, shrouded with negativity, and first impressions are “they have forced marriages,” “the women are repressed and forced to cover up,” and “there’s no freedom”?
For us, growing up and seeing how some people may take one look at you and cross the road feels frustrating. It feels like you aren’t supposed to be associated with the color of your skin, like you should shout to everybody and say, “I am not who you think I am.” But why should I defend myself against someone else’s hideous thoughts? Yet these reactions slowly change us; it makes some of us become angry, withdrawn and retracted. For others, it’s a reason to laugh a little louder, to constantly be the center of attention, just in case we’re seen for the insecure person we’ve become. It is almost like we have to justify our existence.
But that’s the worst thing of all: Feeling like you have to justify why you are in a country you call home, feeling like you have to argue that it is unfair and demeaning to be treated a certain way because of melanin. This can slowly eat at you and make you doubt yourself.
It plays with your self-worth.
Self-worth is tricky. Sometimes it’s a one night stand and sometimes it’s long-term. But even then, it’s not guaranteed to stay. Self-worth is high maintenance. It demands all your effort, time and energy, but what it gives in return is invaluable, something you could never receive from anywhere else. It’s self-love, but with something to lose.
For many people, self-worth is bound to the color of their skin. It’s connected to a perception of you that you can’t control. Skin color provides a presumptive indication of how you should act, mirroring the type of person you are, the type of background you should have. It acts as a guidance to say how educated you are, what type of life you live, what type of life you should have. But we are so much more than that. We are more than just our skin color, more than just our education, more than a guess. Because by embracing our loves, hates, pet peeves, and quirks, we become someone worthy of respect, admiration and love. It shows you how we are more than stereotypes, and seeing yourself for who you are and not how you’re perceived deserves high self-worth.
So self-worth doesn’t need to be attached to skin color. Self-worth is more than how people perceive you and more than how people perceive the color of your skin; it’s personal. It’s about how we are breaking barriers. How we are slowly becoming our ancestor’s wildest dreams. Being Black, Asian or Brown gives us a different perspective on life, on who we are, and on the struggles we have faced. We should be proud.