I just want you to listen
by harleen kaur
I’m tired of trying to make you feel better.
I always thought it was my job to bow down to the white man, explain my “culture” to you, help you to understand who I am, where I come from, why I speak the way I do. For once, it’s time for you to let me be me, sit back and listen, and understand my struggle.
I’m tired of you being angry, of you “hating white people.” Wake up son, you are one. Just because you “know about social justice” or you go to the protests, doesn’t mean that you will ever understand. Your skin will always be white. Mine will always be brown.
I’m tired of trying to make you feel better, trying to tell you that it’s ok for your voice to be heard. Tired of seeing white people continuing to take up space, even in places that are supposed to be safe for people of color. Tired of hearing a white man say the exact same thing as me, but being respected one hundred times more. Your voice dictates the dominant narrative. Your voice is the media. Your voice is the education system, health system, and legal system. I will never be that voice.
For once, let our voices be heard. Let us have our space.
I’m tired of trying to explain the difference between allyhood and speaking up in support of an issue. I’m tired of validating your desire to be an ally when I’m hurting and unsure about whether I should be on this campus at all. Great, you want to support me? Try to understand how hard it is to walk around every day knowing that I am the only person that looks like me. The only. Freaking. One.
How do you explain a childhood of dreams, wishing I were white, wishing that I grew up in a different family, that I wanted to be just like everyone else. Worrying every time I go to the airport that I may miss my flight, knowing that I will be pulled aside for secondary screening at least, factoring in an extra hour for the TSA to harass me, embarrass me, pull away every single wall I’ve spent years building. Until there’s nothing left. Until I’m just a girl and her tears, vulnerable and alone.
I’m tired. I’m exhausted. I’m lonely. And I just want you to listen.
I want us to all get along. I want you to support me. Don’t run out hurt when someone tells you it isn’t your time to speak. Understand that that’s what I’ve been told my whole life. I’m always the one listening. Listening to the media about how any man with a turban and beard is a threat to our country. Oh wait, it’s not my country though. My blood runs red and warm, my voice thick with a Midwestern accent, my feet covered with the dirt of our land. But it’s not ours. It’s yours. It’s always yours.
I just want to belong. But I can’t when I look like this. Looking in the mirror every morning, seeing a stranger. Walking to class. Feeling the stares, the glares, the questions, the assumptions. Knowing that you don’t understand me. Knowing you don’t want to understand me. Coming home. Feeling alone. Again.
I want to speak out, but when I do, you hurt. When I don’t, I hurt. Always being shoved into a pretty little box to be your little minority friend, diversifying our group, making you more culturally aware when I talk about how my family struggled through the Sikh genocide or how I hurt every day knowing that a white man walked into my gurdwara and shot six of us. Just like that. Like they didn’t even matter. Like I don’t even matter.
One brown girl in a sea of thousands, wondering, waiting, wanting to be understood. Help me to be understood. Listen to me, love me, want me, care for me. Let me show you who I am. I just want to belong.
I just want you to listen.
This piece was initially published in Michigan in Color, the Michigan Daily's opinion section designated as a space for and by students of Color at the University of Michigan. To find out more about MiC, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Harleen Kaur is a a first generation Sikh American, passionate about using her words—written and spoken—to reflect upon her identity, investigate her past, and create positive change for the future.