We don’t talk about it enough. The pain that comes with being forced into a box. The pain that comes from someone being angry and saying the most derogatory things about you, your culture, or who they believe you are (even if it is grossly incorrect and offensive), as if they are fact. As if they are true. But as Sadique teaches us, it’s time we be honest, especially as men, about the words and experiences that hurt us in hopes of letting everyone know the pain of stereotypes.
There is a very narrow vision of men of color, especially for black and brown people. Often we are misunderstood and misinterpreted, considered too weak or soft or too aggressive based on stereotypes shown in media and pop culture.
For example, there’s this idea that all Indian men don’t groom well and smell like food, which isn’t true. I’m totally against any generalization of religion, gender, and culture because they prevent people from learning that there’s more to a person than what you hear in the news, TV, or even in movies and hip-hop songs/videos.
More importantly, generalizations can prevent people from realizing we’re all human, which is why we should all look out for one another. Each of us have our own story and perspective, and instead of relying on limited generalizations (of an entire race of people or culture), we should connect and engage with people who don’t look like us to learn the truth for yourself. Because when that doesn’t happen, it leads to very hurtful encounters where people respond with fear, racial slurs, agitation, and violence.
All of a sudden, they shouted “Go back to your fucking country you fucking terrorist.” In that moment I was so disappointed, bummed, and pissed…They made this general, hurtful statement without knowing anything about me, the languages I speak, or my circumstances.
For example, I went to Marshall University in West Virginia for graduate school. The first day I was a little scared because I didn’t know what to expect having just moved from India, and not seeing many people like me–only about 16 Indian people out of 22K people. But during my second semester, while I was walking from my apartment to the recreational center, a truck passed me with four locals in it who were probably drunk.
All of a sudden, they shouted “Go back to your fucking country you fucking terrorist.” In that moment I was so disappointed, bummed, and pissed. They just assumed because of the color of my skin that I was from the Middle East, and even then, they made a general assumption that all people who look like me (or who might come from the Middle East) are terrorists. That was flat out wrong. They made this general, hurtful statement without knowing anything about me, the languages I speak, or my circumstances. I was so upset and shocked.
At another time, I went to a 7/11 to get some coffee. I came out of the store and needed to find something in my bag, so I placed my coffee down. As I searched in my bag, this guy came out of the store and started verbally abusing me. He thought I was standing too close to his car and said he didn’t trust me. I tried to explain to him that I just needed to get something out of my bag, but he started using all kinds of racial slurs, yelling louder and louder.
He kept repeating over and over how he didn’t trust me and that he thought I was trying to do something to his car, which was already a wreck in the first place. It took everything within me to not yell back or fight him. I felt so misunderstood and disrespected. But instead of lowering myself to his level, I just got my stuff and went on my way.