Final yr, comic Shazia Mirza did a present titled Coconut the place she mentioned her rising identification as a British-Pakistani Muslim lady. This was a daring transfer, not solely when it comes to subject material (amongst different topics, he explored concepts about British Asians, who had been accused of not dwelling as much as pre-conceived concepts that they ” are about to occur”) but additionally the title.
Coconut is a time period that refers to an individual of shade who is taken into account “brown on the surface however white on the within”, failing to replicate the tradition they inherited. Mirza’s try to distort the that means of the phrase got here to my thoughts after I had it planted on me by a random individual on Twitter final week. It acquired me pondering, do these of us who’ve been accused of being out of slender views about ethnicity and race owe it to anybody to show something totally different? And if being an “genuine” individual of shade means defending, representing, and embodying our heritage, then how far ought to we go to guard the problematic features of our cultures?
The one who referred to as me “coconut” assumed I used to be Sikh due to my surname and Indian heritage, and criticized me as a result of I did not know particular particulars of the faith that was not mine within the first place. , Satirically, the ignorance was his—not mine. However it stunned me how a lot I owe my inherited tradition.
I’ve all the time been totally conscious of my Indian tradition; It has all the time been so vital to my household. I really like the hospitality and the best way it emphasizes respecting the bigger members of the neighborhood; They’re seen as clever and vital and will not be made to really feel redundant. However appreciation for one thing ought to by no means blind you to its downfall.
There are particular issues about Indian tradition that I hate. Boys are shamelessly appreciated greater than women. It’s customary to offer sweets when a son is born, it’s customary to offer sweets even when a woman isn’t there.
I bear in mind asking my father why I might respect a tradition that does not respect me. I used to be 11 years outdated. My father agreed and purchased me a phrase processor in order that I might write about it. That was my first article. From a really younger age I used to be conscious of the injustice of the tradition by which I used to be born. So it is bizarre that I am scripting this now, a girl in my 40s, ashamed for not respecting my tradition sufficient. However even on the age of 11, I knew respect was a two-way road.
The irony of being referred to as a “coconut” is that this stranger was accusing me of not being who I’m by deciding what I needs to be. Slur is a means of measuring independence; How far are you allowed to float away out of your tradition earlier than you might be instructed you aren’t brown sufficient? However whether or not it’s marriage, politics, or one’s personal tradition, belonging ought to by no means really feel like a submission. We should always be at liberty to depart the get together when what we’re being served doesn’t align with our values.
I’ve all the time chosen my Indian tradition and my British tradition. I select Indian enjoyable, however reject the dowry system.
I select British democracy and freedom however reject the concept of imperialism and monarchy. It is a clear means for me to dwell: undertake what I really like and eliminate what bothers me. Data of various cultures helps us to resolve how we need to dwell.
The concept anybody who deviates from their tradition needs to be considered with suspicion and contempt is unfathomable to me.
Individuals who blindly comply with concepts with out query should be extra conscious of what they’re subscribing to. It’s straightforward to stroll on bumpy roads; It is arduous to make your individual. It takes an incredible quantity of self-awareness and accountability to take action. That is what the French thinker, Jean Paul Sartre, would name “dangerous religion”; A type of self-deception, the place individuals deny that they’ve the liberty to make decisions – out of concern of accountability that goes with actively making decisions.
For instance, the dowry system in India was made unlawful in 1961, however individuals, together with my circle of relatives, nonetheless apply it. Researchers checked out 40,000 marriages in rural India between 1960 and 2008 and located that dowry is paid in 95 % of instances.
It is a shameful statistic that leaves ladies weak and open to violence and even dying. Would the one that referred to as me a coconut on Twitter recommend that these ladies – whose lives have been made hell by an age-old custom – have a disregard for his or her tradition and the way these practices have an effect on them?
Tradition is made up of traditions, values, meals, language and customs and beliefs. It’s a dwelling, respiratory, animal of consciousness, which modifications and modifications dramatically and imperceptibly. It modifications as a result of we modify. If this weren’t the case, white Europeans would nonetheless be supporting slavery.
It’s stated that when your thoughts is expanded – it may well by no means return to its outdated dimensions. Possibly it scares those that cling to nonsensical traditions: If a tradition is simply too skinny, what have we change into?
Somebody as soon as stated: “There’s an ideal stability between holding on to life and letting it go.”
There are numerous issues I really like about my Indian tradition and British tradition, however let’s dwell with open eyes and let go of the issues that not serve us.
Kiran Sidhu is a contract author