Addressing my Race and 'Culture'

by - 23 August

I always get comments under my videos asking about my race. That’s nice, I don't mind it at all. I actually find it fun to make people guess. I think that although I am brown I don’t have very bengali features so it’s harder for people to work out my race just by looking at me. My name doesn’t give it away either I have a Hawaiian name that my mum just made up by putting a jumble of letters together. 

In real life I will get the question ‘where are you from?’ I have found that this question bothers a lot of British Asians as they consider themselves British but are put in a different box by others. For reference, the term 'Asian' is commonly assumed as people of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi background. I find myself confused. Do you want me to tell you what city I was born and brought up in England or where I’m 'really' from?

I get that people find it interesting to know where someone is from by ethnic background it helps us place them in yet another box. I am a mix of different races which is probably why I don’t look very bengali. We have got to a stage in time where it is absolutely impossible to only be one race.

I think as humans we have a burning desire to know exactly where we came from. It is important to us as after all how can we move forward if we don’t know our past? We are all a product of history. So yes here’s the the post on my address my race and culture.

Now culture. I am British culture. I am very British in fact I’m probably more British than people who have centuries of British blood in them.
I grew up in a very Pakistani area in the UK and I was confused about what race I actually was. Children at school would tell me that I am different. But I considered myself exactly the same race as Indian and Pakistani. In fact, I consider myself the exactly same race as you. We are all one race, the human race.

I have lived a very sheltered life, I have few family members. My family do not adhere to bengali culture as much as maybe a lot of people think they should. It’s not that we’re ashamed of it it’s just that we don’t and it all sort of fizzled away overtime. I think that is beautiful and something to be celebrated not looked down upon. We’ve sort of evolved and if you want to maintain a culture from another country to the one you live in I completely respect that.

What is worse is that I get complete strangers telling me that I am not pronouncing my own name right and correct me by calling me Mal-ee-ha or Melee-yah even when I insist that my name is simply pronounced as it is spelt. MALIA. People can’t help putting you in a box. My name by birth is pronounced MALIA. My mother calls me MALIA  and I love it like that thank you very much. 

To be honest I answer to most things and don’t mind if my name is unintentionally mispronounced, but when people tell me that I am trying to be different and not adhering to my ‘culture’ or ‘asian identity’ by not pronouncing my name the way they think I should, that is when I can’t deal with it. I’m not trying to be anything. I am me and it’s not my fault that I am me. I can only ever be me.

To that I respond that ‘ironically the pronunciation of my name with a bengali accent would still be the same, Malia.’ I think a lot of people do not know that there is a huge difference in the Bengali accent compared to Indian and Pakistani which sound similar to each other.

Asian culture in itself is constantly put into a box. On a positive result, to stick to the asian stereotype I am put in by asians themselves, I’ve picked up a lot of punjabi and urdu and even their pronunciations to the point that my tongue hurts trying to pronounce the words right. 

So here, finally, I address my race and 'culture' and will continue to write 'culture' in inverted commas because that it what it is to me.

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