Growing up Pakistani American
Being a South Asian in America is a blessing that brings many curses with it. I am blessed to be in the unique position I am, I am thankful I am arguably in a country with more opportunity for people like myself, but I can never forget where I came from. As a south asian, I have faced countless accounts of stereotyping, discrimination and just plain bullshit. I have also been given numerous benefits other minorities might not get. I am extremely proud of who I am and my heritage.
South Asia is one of the most densely populated parts of the world. It comprises of India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, and Afghanistan. All of these nations are diverse multi-enthnic nations. Hinduism, Islam and Sikhism are the most prominent religions in South Asia. This diversity means that the south asian diaspora in America is also extremely diverse. Unfortunately, this is something many Americans don’t realize. Being from Pakistan, many people have mistakenly referred to me as either Indian or Middle Eastern, without ever trying to correct themselves or ask if that was correct. These assumptions at a systemic level have led to the suffering and trauma of many people. After 9/11 many Sikhs were discriminated against, simply because they had beards and wore a head covering. As someone who has been called a terrorist and been screened “randomly” at the airport. I’m very much aware of the ignorance of Americans and the American system as a whole. As South Asians we should embrace the diversity within ourselves and in our community so the world can see how diverse the South Asian diaspora is.
I could not write about a South Asian without talking about the model minority myth. I want to make it clear; most South Asians would never have stepped foot in this country if it wasn’t the suffering and hard work of the people involved in the civil rights movement. The movement led to the passing of the Immigration act in 1965, which in turn led to mass immigration to America from Asia. Now, many South Asians (especially our parents) believe that any American can succeed in America if the necessary hard work is put in. While this is true, it blatantly ignores our systemic problems that continue to hold many people especially African Americans back. Many South Asians don’t understand that our experience is nothing like the African American experience in America. South Asian are fortunate to not face the discrimination, racism and unfairness that African Americans are forced to deal with. Therefore, it is our DUTY as minorities and as Americans to keep fighting against systemic racism and racial injustice.
South Asians have had to deal with extreme islamophobia since 9/11. This especially concerning as a large portion of South Asian diaspora is not muslim, but instead these non-muslims and muslims are lumped together and discriminated against as one. The American media as well as other media sources in the world constantly mention the words “Islamic” and “extremists” together. Unfortunately, this has led to people associating extremists ONLY with Islam, which could not be more false. There are extremists of every faith, but western media puts islamic extremists at the forefront. First of all, these extremists ARE NOT muslims. They are a shame to the muslim world, and that is something that should constantly be reiterated. These people do not represent the muslims, and they especially don’t represent the south asian world.
Being a South Asian in America is a blessing that bears a burden. I consider myself fortunate to be in this nation, and to be considered an American. On the other hand, there a lot of things about this great nation that just don’t make sense. I hope that my children grow up in a different America than I did. An America with more tolerance, respect and appreciation for the diverse people around them.