Identity Politics

“I am a South Asian woman who writes about experiences of immigration and womanhood from and in South Asia”

I am liminal. I am limited.
I am defined by geography and colour and a history that follows me with a shame I must constantly erase.
I must identify. I must delineate. I must be loud and assertive, yet put you at ease by reassuring you- Yes, I am brown, but I am just like you.

I am brown but I am friendly.
I am brown but I am civil.
I am brown but I fit.

I am an exception to my people.

So I feel relief. Wave-like, tidal, relief. I am better than what I was born, I tell myself. I am better than what they made me.
I can disavow. Detach from the smallness of who I used to be. I might become one of them if I try hard enough.

****

Are we essentially dissimilar, them and I? Is there something irreconcilable about how we see the world? Am I their shadow, forever toiling in the labour of being enough?
I have engulfed myself in a quiet erasure. I shrink in the space they begrudgingly grant. It is a space of tokenism and fetishism. I am the Indian friend. I wear Sarees and recommend Indian restaurants. I scurry back and forth trying to escape the maze, but here I am, constantly self-erasing to fit in, constantly performing my identity to be interesting.

Are we essentially similar, my people and I? Is there something solidarizing about how we are treated by the world? Am I their mirror, forever running from an identity I am destined to embody? I have engulfed myself in a dark disavowal. I shrink in the shame of a people traumatized. It is a shame fueled by centuries of humiliation and exploitation. I wear Jeans and recommend European cities. I scurry back and forth trying to escape the maze, but here I am, constantly self-erasing to fit in, constantly performing my identity to be of value.

****

One of these days I will just fall apart. Disintegrate into little tokens of identity. Indian. Woman. Immigrant.

Imagine the bits of me scattered on the sidewalk, insides splayed unpleasantly along their neat hedges. How will they sanitize me then? How will my viscera fit their narrative?

Perhaps they will see me as I see me. Layers and layers of complexity exposed before their eyes. Perhaps they will see the flesh and sinews that held together the brown skin and ask, did she have the same insides as us?

Or perhaps they will squelch the gastric veins and squeeze the oozing heart, playthings for their puppies. They will roll their eyes and glare with exasperation when no one comes to clean it up.

****

One of these days I will coagulate. Coalesce into a unitary wholeness. Outsider. Woman of Colour. Immigrant.
I will shed the parts that don’t quite fit. Atheist? Singer? Vegan? Questioning? Questioning? Questioning.

Perhaps they will understand me then. A monochromatic, wholesome identity that can be consumed without choking on bones or spitting up feathers. I will be the most spectacular piece of meat on their mild and digestible charcuterie board.

But as they swallow me, bite by same, mundane bite,

I will explode into a menagerie of complexity.
I will demand that they see.

Or perhaps I will just dust myself off, reassemble the layers of flesh they ravaged and walk out the door.

I will walk out in a swift, gory whirl of brown.
****

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