the many descriptions of being brown

White people tell you to apologize for yourself

through gestures, through small talk, through the ways in

which they ask,                  “Where are you from?” and

then again, unresolved:      “No, I mean...Where are you

really from??” Or when they tell you you’re pretty      for

an Indian girl.         And even through you’re not Indian.

You nod, smiling with forgiveness & agreement

Or when they tell you that you don’t act like an Indian,

and you don’t even mind that you’re not Indian because

you’re so filled with glee that you’re not some kind of 

dancing monkey.                So you feel                       you

will be accepted   like you’re about to join a sorority.

A sorority where all the white people go.        And you.

That they’ll forget             you aren’t as brown as brown

could be.             Until they snicker a “curry” under

their breath          as they look at you.                          Or

mention Apu                       and do the Indian voice

      thankyoucomeagain      & instead of making them

uncomfortable with an admonition of their racism, in

response you will say (defensively) that it sounds nothing

like your father.     Which is true          but it’ll take you years

to understand        the damage it’s done.         When they

see you   and not a human. When they see not you,

but a stereotype, made up...             by a white person.

Bibliographical info

Fariha Rósín "the many descriptions of being brown" Copyright 2019 by Fariha Rósín

Source: "the many descriptions of being brown" from How to Cure a Ghost (Abrams Image, an imprint of ABRAMS, 2019)

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