Racism, bigotry, and hatred are curious things. They cannot be reasoned with. They cannot be fought with weapons and violence. Somehow, despite all the destruction they cause, they still persist, like resistant viruses.
For those of you who know me, you know my life has been characterized, at least in part, by a constant struggle against the worst parts of my upbringing and the worst parts of the culture I belong to. One of these worst parts is the festering exclusionism and bigotry that typifies my family, and many Pakistani families alike.
I find people from all different parts of the world to be beautiful and remarkable. Every color and shape is another thread that comprises an ever expanding global tapestry. In an increasingly flat world, those threads are blending together. Multiracial couples, and children, are becoming more common. I am one half of such a couple. I am marrying the woman of my dreams, and she is white.
I decided, after much deliberation, to tell my parents, and I have spent the past 4 months arguing with them about it. I have heard every nonsense reason they can come up with for why I shouldn’t be marrying someone who isn’t Pakistani, someone who isn’t a part of “our” culture. After so much arguing, my parents will not be attending my wedding. They will not be offering their support to the decision I’ve made, and though I wouldn’t have thought it possible, our relationship has become even more damaged.
There is a desire that permeates the Pakistani ethos to separate from other peoples and associate only among ourselves. There is a blind adherence to the idea that Pakistani people are somehow better, and becoming too close with others is some sort of crime. I was raised with stereotypes about every other race. Black people are thugs. Spanish people are dirty. Chinese people are just weird (of course every Asian is either Chine or Japanese as well). And white people, white people are the worst. They are the devil. They corrupt innocent Muslim Pakistani boys like myself. Their women are immoral temptresses, and their men are idiots.
The remarkable thing about these stereotypes is not that they exist. After all, if you’re taught nothing else your entire life, it makes sense that you will adopt these beliefs and find evidence in your life to support them. No, the remarkable thing is how unwavering these beliefs can be. My parents have traveled the world. They have met every kind of person and experienced the multicultural wonder the world has to offer. Few in the world are so fortunate to have experienced the wonder of the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids in Egypt, and the Eiffel Tower. Many would regard these experiences as transformative, and take them as opportunities to appreciate the beauty that is present in people all around the world.
Instead, they have become a catalog of experiences used to justify incorrect beliefs. That one woman in France who was wearing a crop top and shorts is enough to prove that all white women are whores. That one Chinese child pooping in the street proves that they’re out of control. Quite to the contrary, though, Pakistani people are regarded as infallible. No matter how bad of shape our country is in, there is a conspicuous lack of introspection and self improvement. The intelligent educated people leave the country because they can’t stand it there, while the others stay and continue to perpetuate a destructive culture.
I’m not writing this to explain what I’m going through, not really anyway. I’m writing this out of hope for something better. I’m writing this because I care about others in my situation, and because I care about my people and my country. There is a tremendous feeling of loneliness and abandonment that comes with your parents refusing to support anything you do, a feeling no child should have to experience. There are very concrete explainable reasons why Pakistan is in such terrible shape, and is not improving despite every impetus imaginable, and this is one of those reasons. It is my hope that, one day, we will live in a world in which everyone will have read Pakistani poetry, a world in which Pakistani food is just as popular around the world as Indian food. But I fear that we will never see such a world. I fear that these things will fade away, and become distant memories.
People who challenge the flow of the Pakistani tide are shunned. They are excluded and become black sheep forced to wander without a flock. This post is a plea for change, for evolution. It is an explanation of the experience I have gone through used to highlight a hidden adversity that many of my friends and loved ones are facing as well. I only hope that my generation learns from the mistakes of its ancestors, and treats its children differently.