So for the longest time. I had grown up thinking of myself as an “almost” Indian. A half-Indian. Half caste. Whatever the hell sort of awful approximation of an authentic identity I desired. Loathed. Loved. And pursued.
I had dealt with a lot of people who felt at complete ease telling me what it “is” that I am.
My Dad is black you see. And many attempts I’ve made to connect with my mother’s heritage sending me packing. As if somehow invoking the dominance of the influence of “the father” is going to resolve the annoyance of having to decide which “box” I’m allowed to be in. It was always a tricky thing to even communicate to my own mother, who was not a cultural woman herself and could not understand what I was looking for. She could not understand why their rejection of me mattered to me – and I couldn’t understand why it was I was being denied my authenticity.
In classrooms from Juniors and Seniors alike. I was poked and prodded, initially treated with curiosity but falling into dismissive indifference at my advances to gain acceptance. To be honest, I also have always felt that this pursuit was partly out of the lottery of my genetics. If I didn’t look so much like a scrawny Indian chap I’d probably have been doing this tired old tap dance for affirmation was other cultural groups around my community.
Yeah, authenticity is a funny thing. A painful thing.
I felt apologetic for my Mixedness. And I know too well how much resentment that has built within me, I feel frustrated and sensitive to the touch.
My jaws clench and my heart tense when some ask about my background. Some will engage with interest and enthusiasm. We’d engage in spirit conversations as I unpack everything I know about my family tree in record time.
Others will ignore it. And it will not come up unless I bring it forward.
And there are some. Not a few by any stretch.
Who will make efforts to assure me “it’s nothing special”, or respond to my explanation with a sneer. I am told I’m not mixed “enough” to have the identity crisis I identify with.
Can you imagine?
I guess I’d be allowed to have more loud.. And palatable conflicts.. if I had been mixed with Whiteness.
No one likes being painted with a single brush. It silences something so delicate. We all hold multiple identities, and have unique relationships with what those mean to us. But to be cast in the light of restrictive boundaries with such consistent indifference takes its toll after time.
For so many reasons. I now identify myself as politically black.
But within that construction. There is so much contested ground. So much I need to understand about how I am to express and reconcile my Indian identity. It has been all too easy to let it fall by the wayside but all too often I am reminded that simply ignoring it is no freedom. I have come to bear resentment for what Indianness has represented in my life. I can barely mask a scowl when I’m having curry in a crowded Indian restaurant. I feel under threat. Angry that I don’t understand all the names and variations on the menu. Scared to ask what anything means. Anxious at being discovered. Feeling deeply inauthentic.
I have thought that perhaps I need some kind of journey to India. Perhaps with my mother. To go and to confront a heritage that I am in danger of blocking out altogether.
Perhaps then, I will find a way to reconcile feeling caught in-between.