Updated: Feb 10, 2019
i am the estranged middle child, the one who often goes unheard but has the most of say, constantly balancing two sides of an unjust scale. caught in between the dichotomy of first generation immigrants and the new wave of hyphenated muslims, i don't seem to reap the benefits of either without a vicious guilt constantly whispering in my ear.
"your parents went to starved often to make sure you never did," it said.
"but your friends made you fearless" it rebuttled.
where does my loyalty lie? i read the heavy-hearted posts on social media of oppressed muslims living in america, unable to feel empathy for their traditional parents way of life, a community who gave everything and crossed oceans for us to be able to have a voice and we have used it only to denounce that same culture. we capitalize off of our cultural oppression, only donning bindis and saris after Hollywood gave us the nod of approval - your culture is trending now. we too-often use words like "diaspora" and "cultural appropriation", only cashing in on our parents' struggle - failing to understand why our mothers disapprove of us being outside the house after the sun goes down and fighting ferociously for our right to get drunk with strangers or to wear miniskirts to expose the very parts of us that our culture died to preserve, the parts of us that empower us now are the same parts of us that make those martyrs think it was all for nothing.
perhaps our right to choose gives us the right to choose right from wrong and so often, it seems like these lines are blurred in the name of creative expression. perhaps our obligation to tradition is what has allowed us to celebrate diwali and eid in the united states after all of these years. sometimes, its exhausting to tip the scales in favor of either because i yearn to shed the labels that keep me chained. and sometimes, i lament the fact that those who aren't cursed with this duality will never understand the magnificence of having cross-cultural-contamination infiltrate every strand of your dna.
i want to dedicate this post to my mother.
i am my mother, wearing her tears on my sleeve - i have seen her grit her teeth for 26 years, never once wincing at the way my peers made a face when i brought them home for the first time. she came out, her shalwar kameez drenched from cooking dinner for my family, every single night, without fail and her face tired from life but her mouth still smiled, her voice still softened and she still spoke, albeit broken english, but she still spoke. no matter how much this country and this culture disapproved, she wears her culture proudly on her and for that, i envy her.