I Love My Ethnicity, You Can No Longer Make Me Feel Embarrassed For Who I Am

I Love My Ethnicity, You Can No Longer Make Me Feel Embarrassed For Who I Am

Using microaggressions against someone's ethnicity can cause them to feel shame in places they didn't know they could feel shame

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Third grade: I was around nine years old when I first felt embarrassed about my ethnicity.

A kid in my class started making fun of Indian food. He started talking making fun of Indian accents and probably very unintentionally, made me feel so inferior and embarrassed. I remember wanting to hide.

Freshman year of high school. I was sitting in science class when a girl walked up to me. She kinda looked me up and down and said: "So, do you like to make pottery or something?" I was immediately taken back. All I could say was "What?" (Now, if this would have happened today, I would have come back with a wittier response, but I had not grown into my confidence quite yet). She didn't take the hint that I was feeling uncomfortable, so she proceeded to ask more demeaning questions. "Have you ever ridden an elephant before?" "Do you have normal birthday parties, or do you weird things?" I remember my face getting warm and my palms getting sweaty. I shifted in my chair just said, "Nope, haven't done any of those things" in the timidest voice.

I wish I could tell you that those very derogatory questions meant nothing to me, that I brushed them off and went on my merry way walking in confidence in who I was.

The reality of this situation was that those words did not just brush those off. I remember feeling so annoyed and so hurt at the same time that I couldn't say anything to defend myself and that I just let myself be subjected to such embarrassment that I did nothing to deserve.

At that point in my life talking about my ethnic background was one of the most uncomfortable things for me to do. I always felt so separated by everyone else around me and I felt like there was no room to be proud of this part of my identity. When I was in high school, people weren't interested in truly knowing about my ethnic background. They asked questions to fill the void of their own ignorance, which ends up hurting the person they're talking to along the way Indian culture is something that has been warped into stereotypes on T.V. shows, and any other public outlet. And because there are some people that are unaware of how to properly talk to someone about their background, you get statements like this:

"Where are you from? Oh, sorry! That was probably racist."

In the public eye, I was very shy about talking about this part of my identity. I found myself wanting to quickly change the subject every time it was brought up. I had yet to find my confidence within that part of me.

Fast forward some years to where I am today, my perspective of my ethnicity has changed dramatically. And It's been the most life-giving and beautiful journey. I have recently been reflecting on the reasons why I now love my ethnic background and how I wouldn't change that for anything in this world.

I love that Indian food is a staple food in my life, a life without goat curry would be a sad one. I love that my mother speaks such a beautifully complex language. I could listen to her speak for hours. I love how intricate the clothing is.

Every detail is sown with such intentionality. I love that through becoming more immersed in my ethnic background, I've been able to fully grasp how amazing it is to hear prayers and songs of worship in a different language. It reminds me that God is near to everyone in such an individual and special way. And I love that family is so valued in this culture. It reminds me that God is so incredibly intentional with every person he places in my life. Each and every person. These are a few reasons that I've come to love and cherish this part of my identity. Although the journey to this love was a long one, it was worth it. I'm thankful that as I've gotten older I have gotten more confident, and in return, I've developed more pride for this part of my life.

If I could go back in time and sit down with nine-year-old Christina, I would tell her not to feel shame. I would cup her face in my hands and tell her that this part of her is beautiful, and she should be proud of it. I would tell her that no one can take this part of you away and you should walk with that confidence with your head held high. And lastly, I would tell her that this part of her identity is something she should be proud of.

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17 Signs You Grew Up Irish

Irish and proud!
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With a name like Shannon Elizabeth Ryan many people right away sarcastically ask the question "you're not Irish are you?" I always laugh and jokingly say nope not at all. I'm extremely proud of my Irish heritage, but what does it mean to be Irish?

Here are 17 signs you grew up Irish:

1. You have a distinct Irish name: first or last

Shannon, Elizabeth, Michael, Patrick, Sean, James, Ryan, Riley, Mahony, Murphy. Extra points if your last name begins with O', Mac or Mc.

2. You have been called a "potato head" or towhead as a child

Shannon Ryan

"What a bunch or potato heads!" Meaning you were really Irish or really blonde or both.

3. You were raised Catholic

Shannon Ryan

Catholic school, mass every Sunday. Oh and you were most likely an alter server or in the choir and can say the mass forward and backwards.

4. You have a love for potatoes of any kind.

Also, you may have read this book about a potato as a child.

5. You've been told, "Oh, you're Irish, you can hold your drinks."

Giphy

I mean it's in your blood, right?

6. Funeral, wedding, birthday you really can't tell the difference

Wedding? Get the whiskey. Oh, you said funeral?

... get the whiskey.

7. You know old Irish Songs and sing along with every note

"The Streets of New York," "Black Velvet Band," "Wild Rover," "Molly Malone," "Galway Girl," "Danny Boy," tell me ma all songs I remember being singing along with as a kid.

8. Your favorite holiday is St. Patrick's Day and you go all out

A day to show the world that there are only two types of people in the world: those who are Irish and those that wish they were.

9. You own a Celtic cross, Claddagh ring or any Irish knot jewelry and wear it often

You were most likely given that Celtic cross when you were born and got one for your First Holy Communion. The Claddagh was given by someone who loves you and Irish knots you can never go wrong with.

10. Two words: "soda" and "bread"

Some don't know that the cross made on the top of bread is to keep the devil away and protect the house.

11. You have a HUGE family and the parties and reunions that go along with it are just as big

My family is enormous and this is only half of it and I still don't know everyone.

12. There is no such thing as tanning

Unless you ware one of the blessed ones who do tan I'm extremely jealous. For the rest of us, we have two options pale or red there is no in-between.

13. You may not have the cleanest mouth or quietest voice

But you would never dare say a bad word in front of someone older than you. As for an indoor voice, it's non-existent.

14. You can successfully pull off an “Irish Exit" and then have to explain to your friends the next day what exactly that is when they ask where you went

Basically means you leave the party without anyone knowing.

15. At one point in your life, you've said, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph" if something went wrong

I heard this a lot growing up and I catch myself saying it every now and again.

16. The only college football team you root for is Notre Dame

I mean is there any other, Let's Go Fighting Irish!

17. Lastly, you are extremely proud of your Irish heritage

We are Irish. We are taught to be strong, have faith in God and learn how to party and have fun. Erin Go Bragh!

Cover Image Credit: kingofwallpapers.com

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Lighter Skin Doesn't Automatically Make You More Beautiful, Colorism Is A Real Issue

No matter how dark or how light you are, there's absolutely nothing wrong with it.

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South Asian communities are keen on the image of beauty having relation to being "fair and lovely." Eurocentric beauty standards and traditions have often led to a vast statistic of young brown teenage girls to feel insecure about the melanin they were born with. I've never unraveled this concept of relating paler skin with more beauty. Growing up, I've had the "privilege" of living beneath a light colored complexion, as relatives, family friends, and even strangers, have often glorified the color of my skin. I was introduced to a concept called "light-skinned privilege."

A dark-skinned girl would write about the adversity she faced as she tackles a society that shames her skin and worships European beauty features. She'd recount how she overcame this shallow mentality by learning to love and accept her dark skin. To provide an interesting twist, I am writing from the perspective on the other end of the spectrum, as a "light-skinned" brown girl, to acknowledge the fact that my skin gives me privilege in a society that has been internalizing colorist values for generations on end, and why this toxic mentality is harming brown communities.

In a metaphorical and comprehensible sense, it may be simple to compare "light skin privilege" to "white privilege," or colorism to racism. Both are systematic preferences for individuals who are of a superior trait, color, or race, giving those people societal advantages in regards to their possession of the ideal physical attractiveness standards. Colored men and women are systematically oppressed by colorist or racist means; sometimes, unfortunately, by both at the same time. But colorism, compared to racism, is an anomalous social issue that occurs every day, something I've recognized since I was nine years old.

It was nearly 100 degrees. The concrete of my backyard burned the soles of my feet and the air was laced with intensified humidity. But still, it's summer. No one stays in their house; folks practically lived in the outdoors. We cooked, conversed, slept, and ate right on our own property. The people of my culture spend every day living in the ambiance under the sun, so why is colorism such a normality?

It's because my people want to embrace their sun, but are pressured to hide in the shade. My nine-year-old charismatic self completely ignored this. I played freeze tag, rode my bike, and played games under the sun all day, until one day, my mom said to me:

"Melissa why you run in the sun all day? Your skin will turn black!"

She expects me to spend more time in the shade than in the sun. If I am in the sun, I must be fully clothed, even in 100-degree weather. Wearing a tank top and shorts while being in the sun is utterly scorned upon. It is dangerous, detrimental to my well-being, not because of the fact that I'm exposed to an excessive amount of harmful UV rays that can potentially cause skin cancer, but because my skin tone will become darker, and my "beauty will fade."

To avoid any misinterpretation of all this, I'm not whining about how "difficult" it is to have light skin. I'm not saying that those with light skin can be oppressed just as much as people with dark skin. Because they can't be. It's not the same. In reference to my racism analogy previously mentioned, saying people with light skin can also be oppressed in colorist communities is like saying white people can be oppressed in colored communities. This is completely false. The concept applies both ways; the same way minorities cannot systematically oppress white people is comparable to dark-skinned people not having the privilege and power in society to discriminate light skin people.

When a girl is shamed for her dark complexion, encouraged to bleach her skin, buys foundation a few shades lighter, invests in the popular "Fair & Lovely" skin cream, idolizes magazine cover models who are only of light skin complexion, learns that men in colorist communities prefer light-skinned women over dark skin, this is known as real, systematic oppression. This is a problem that is highly underrated.

However, there are no creams used to make a person of lighter complexion darker. No one is pressuring me to stay in the sun so I can be darker. What my mother had said to me was not systematically oppressive at all. It was said in a tone of admiration and caution, not a tone of distaste and discrimination.

I've read works addressing social injustices such as racism and police brutality, sexism, and homophobia, but can barely recall one that touched upon colorism. Today, I've used my "light skin privilege" as a platform to speak out against colorism and to raise awareness on the problematic cultural notions instilled in the minds of young girls in colored societies.

In other words, love your skin! Love the color of it, please. No matter how dark or how light you are. There's absolutely nothing wrong with it.

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