Anger, and Being Brown

Anger, my good friend, anger.

You are so reliable, so constant,

yet elusive,

sometimes I can’t see you, but then suddenly you appear, snarl and bite.

you are always there, always so patient,

you never shut me down and tell me to look on the bright side,

with you, I can ‘be dark’ and talk about death whenever and wherever I want.

You are always deep in the core of my chest, sometimes you are almost dormant,

other times you shoot lava everywhere,

and then I get to grunt, bark and scream!

     My daughter is taking amazing steps forward in her development, but I have no one to talk to about it, well, no one who matters in that sacred way.  Relatives, even friends are great, but how often can you talk about your daughter getting taller with most people?  Or, how often can you talk about the fine details of how her English, Punjabi and French skills have risen?  I know if Natasha were here, she would want to know how our daughter has improved her basketball skills.  Natasha would be delighted to know that Anisha has started bouncing a basketball properly, with her finger tips and not with her palms.  Or, how about the fact that Anisha has gotten a lot taller since Christmas—Natasha would love to revel in the details of our daughter’s life.  Sharing her development with friends and family is the only answer, but I don’t trust the opinions of most people when it comes to teaching a little brown girl to be proud of her skin.

     I know this blog is widow-based, but my widowhood is shaped by cross-cultural issues.  The beauty, or freedom I feel when discussing racial issues with people of colour is indescribable; my Hindu-Muslim wife knew it without me having to explain anything.  Don’t get me wrong, I do have the same feeling with Caucasian friends, in particular, the cross-culturally aware ones, but with people of colour I don’t have worry about managing white guilt.      

     As a brown man with a social conscience, I have learned to tread lightly when discussing racial issues.  However, at the same time, my new confidence tells me not to worry about being labeled the ‘sensitive brown guy.’  As Canadians, we love taking pride in our multicultural country, but few people are open to any critical discussion without feeling blamed.  This is why I have learned that if you look like ‘an  immigrant,’ it’s important to start the conversation with some recognition of how great Canada is, how grateful my family is to be Canadian, and, how Canada has come so far socially in the last 100 years.

     I feel like I have to constantly be patient and understanding of socially awkward people.  Being a single widowed dad is hard enough, but, at the age of 47 to still be reminded that in minds of ‘real Canadians,’ my skin colour regulates me to a lesser national category, come on!   It is tricky, because sometimes the exotification of my skin colour is just respectful curiosity which is a wonderful thing.  Yet, it is simply nice if new friends do not start the conversation with that question that brown Canadians never ask white Canadians, “Where are you from?”

     How do I prepare my daughter for these sorts of questions?  When someone asks her if she was born here, how can I teach her to deal with such interrogations with dignity and grace.  If Natasha were still here, she would remind me not to over-think, or over-analyze everything.  My daughter is a different generation, perhaps she will not face the same identity issues.  Perhaps, this is something for my generation, for me, to carry for her.  Anisha’s generation is already different since her multicultural school is very, very progressive and inclusive—racism, sexism, or bullying of any kind doesn’t stand a chance against a modern elementary school, with modern teachers and modern parents.

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  • Archana K
    commented 2019-03-28 11:28:16 -0700
    I completely relate to you , I am suddenly raising boys on my own after the death of my Husband ,Please take one day at a time and keep updating your blog .We are all in this together and it is a daily struggle.