I often think about what it means to wear many hats and how lived experiences shift when and where I don a specific one— woman, friend, Canadian, Anglo, gay, deaf, Jewish, leftist, partner, student, daughter, employee, tutor, mixed. Where do my privileges lie? Where am I excluded? Who wants to hurt me here and who wants to see me succeed? I have to think about each hat every day, as so many do.
In truth, the identity (or hat) I think the most about is my race. I have to. It permeates every part of my life. It’s the heaviest thing about me because it impacts places I’ve lived, the jobs I’ve gotten, the way others perceive me when I walk down the street. I can tell that when people ask me about my “interesting skin tone,” they really just want to ask me why I’m brown.
Olive skin means I’m not white, but I’m not specifically anything else either. At least not at first glance. You’d have to talk to me. You’d have to ask me what my last name is. Even then, you might not know. You might think of the character from Sesame Street before you think of New Delhi.
Whenever I hear my last name, I think about my grandpa, Dr. Rajbans Grover. I think about how badly he wanted to learn, how much he loved his family, the hardships of being an Indian man in Canada AND England. Marrying a white woman. What it felt like in the 50s to have strange people trying to peer into your child’s stroller to catch a glimpse of their skin colour.
I also think about the things left unsaid by people I’ve met. “Where were you born? What languages do you speak? I LOVE Indian food. I do yoga EVERY day and it’s invigorating. I had NO idea Grover was an Indian last name.”
I certainly hold a lot of privileges as a mixed cis woman, and I try to think about that often. I’m proud to be Indian because it’s a hat I can’t take off. I get to be brown every day. I get to have eyes the colour of the earth and hair as deep as a night sky every day. I get to see my grandpa every day. For that, I am grateful.
Collaboration:JE SUIS MTL x JÉ T'AIME
June 25, 2021