I originally wrote this as a Facebook post, Friday May 26th. Several people contacted me after trying to share it only to find they could only share the video but not my words. So I’ve turned it into a blog post which can be shared, words, video and all. I do hope you will as it’s a message I feel strongly about, a message I believe needs to get out there. Despite the many likes and positive comments from those who got it, there was inevitably a troll who misunderstood me, viewing the post as a vehicle for self-pity, telling me to get my priorities straight and accusing me and the whole of social media for not letting families grieve by our apparent insistence on instantly diverting attention towards ‘the dark-skinned people making it all about us’. So for the record, that is not at all what this about. In fact, quite the opposite. The post was written to open the eyes, ears and hearts of the very people like the keyboard warrior I mentioned. This is not a ‘my suffering is worse than your suffering’ competition. In any event, we all know that the people suffering the most in this senseless ‘war’ are the ones losing their lives, their health or their loved ones to the attacks. I’m a writer and if this post can educate one person who then educates another and so on, then that is one small but positive thing I can do in the midst of the madness we are engulfed in. #WeStandTogether
This was published before the shocking London Bridge/Borough Market Attacks. My sentiments are of course the same.
I generally keep it light-hearted on the blog and Facebook and frankly, finding myself fighting back tears isn’t how I like to start my Friday.
But it’s been a week for the tears hasn’t it? So I feel the need to share this.
As the child of first generation immigrants myself – like the man in the video below – I totally relate to what he is saying. After 9/11 happened, many of my Indian peers and Sikh relatives went through a very hard time. Attacks on Sikhs took place because they were mistaken for Muslims (by bigots unable to tell the difference between the turbans worn by Sikh and Muslim men, bigots who assumed every Muslim person was evil and that we are all the same’ which in itself is a flawed view) and close relatives of mine went through hell when travelling on public transport, trying to get served in a cafe. Nervous looks, racist sideswipes, uncomfortable shifting from others became an everyday norm.
I’ll never forget being out one night for a celebration in a lovely London hotel and one of my male relatives came back from the bathroom, his face fallen and his expression absolutely wounded. A guy next to him in the lavatory had made a derogatory comment about his turban and a reference to 9/11. One bigoted idiotic remark that took seconds to leave the guy’s mouth wrecked everyone’s night. We thought we’d left behind the mental and emotional injuries of having grown up in the 70’s and 80’s where ‘go back to where you came from’ was a standard phrase and violent attacks carried out on Asian-owned businesses were a common occurrence. Shall I emphasise how hard people worked to start and build those businesses? We didn’t lay about and rely on benefits. My father almost had a fit when I suggested signing on to get unemployment benefit when I initially couldn’t find a job after leaving university. He was adamant that nobody in our family would ‘shame themselves’ by relying on the state instead of just using gumption and grit to work.
9/11 and the many atrocities since then: London, Brussels, Paris, Manchester to name a few have taken us back to that mentality with an unwelcome heartbreaking suffocating crash.
This same relative from the hotel bathroom incident no longer knows what it’s like to travel to the USA without being stared at uncomfortably by other passengers or being pulled aside at immigration and I’m not even going to list what else he – or in fact my own husband who doesn’t wear a turban but is presumably ‘just too brown’ (?) – have endured since.
With every malevolant attack by these nutters, thousands of British-born Asians’ hearts sink. Why?
Because we know WE JUST KNOW that there will be many more people (already of a narrow-minded nature who are then further stirred up by certain tabloids whose agenda seems to be to incite hateful ignorance and fear knowing that their easily-led readership will lap up every word) who will be looking at us more nervously, making more sideswipes, shifting even more uncomfortably standing next to us in some shop, airport queue etc.
Yet the overwhelming MAJORITY of British (indeed American born) Asians – be we Sikh, Hindu, Muslim – view these attacks with the same contempt, disbelief, despair and shock as everyone else does.
When Timothy McVeigh carried out the Oklahoma bombing, when various ‘white Western’ maniacs have carried out school/public building massacres etc have you noticed how their religion/ethnicity isn’t mentioned? Does everyone suddenly start mistrusting all white people? No they don’t. Do all white people feel they have to walk around hanging their heads in shame on behalf of ‘their people’? No they bloody well don’t.
It’s the most tragic double standard there ever was. This isn’t an exaggeration. This isn’t distortion of facts or seeing things that don’t exist. It’s the way it is. It’s the way it’s always been.
I can’t even begin to imagine what today, tomorrow, the day after that and so on will be like for the families affected by the #Manchester tragedy. Entire lives, innocent lives shattered in a senseless war that has no end but just continues in one enormous vicious circle. I just cannot contemplate having one of my kids blown to bits like this. I don’t know what level of hate I might feel. Emotions are running high, most of all for the families affected. What I do know though, hard as it is for some people to absorb, is that you can’t tar an entire race/religion because of the actions of the minority. Yes I know, with the frequency of attacks, it may not feel like the minority and admittedly we have no idea how many terror cells exist but they don’t act on behalf of all Muslims.
The man in this video is PROUD to be British. And at the same time PROUD of his religion. I may not be religious myself but I respect his right to be proud of his religion and not have to feel ashamed of it. And this man is aching right now for those families. He is bereft. The nutters don’t act on behalf of him or his people. He and his community want no part of it. And every time…EVERY time an atrocity takes place and is attributed to a Muslim, he and innumerable British Asians of all faiths and religions are ashamed. We shouldn’t feel this way but we do.
So I totally understand his words and his tears. And on this beautiful sunny Friday morning that I should have started ages ago with laundry and 20 other chores, I am sitting here crying with him.
We are not the same as the maniacs. #WeStandTogether