2019 challenge lifestyle mental health

What It’s Like To Live As An “Other” (234/365)

Living as an ‘other’ is a truly weird experience, my whole life I’ve been a minority, whether it’s been in a white space, or a space with other ethnic minorities. My family came to the UK before a lot of Somali’s came here, and then once they did we lived in areas that were predominantly South Asian, so I’ve never spent a lot of time in work or school around people of the same ethnic background.

Being an ‘other’ is something that is hard to explain, because a lot of awkwardness and weirdness comes from feeling like an outsider. A lot of it isn’t even done on purpose, people unconsciously react in certain ways and those ways reinforce that you’re not ‘one of them’, whether it’s people talking about how their culture is the best, or relatable experiences they’ve all gone through as a result of race.

Of course like I said a lot of this isn’t done on purpose, but at the same time you still feel like an outsider regardless. I remember having a group of friends who were proud Pakistanis, which is amazing, they embraced their culture and heritage, but in doing so they’d say a lot of things in their language and forget to translate. I used to ask straight away, until it got to the point where I would ask and no one would translate and I stopped bothering full stop. They’d also teach me a lot about their culture and experiences, but get a bit weird if I ever mentioned mine.

It’s a weird line in a lot of cases, because you’re the main representative of your culture in those situations, your audience will either want to know, or feel uncomfortable being faced with something that is different. Obviously this is a black and white way of looking at it, but I’ve had both situations happen and honestly I still haven’t learned how to deal with the latter in any way shape or form.

You also get comments, or hear comments and those comments aren’t always nice and you have to figure out a logical way of dealing with it – as not everyone will have your back if it gets ugly. In school I dealt with this a lot and honestly I had to learn to laugh off the racism as I learnt quickly that my friends would not always have my back. I had to play the role of an other and I played the ‘acceptable black girl role’ which goes against my very being.

In case you didn’t know, my school was mainly South Asian and honestly the anti blackness is real ugly, I’ve written blog posts about this in the past and also appeared in a YouTube video with one of my best friends about it, it wasn’t fun, but you have to find ways to survive.

I guess because I’ve mainly been an outsider all the time I’m somewhat used to it. Depending on who’s around you it’s a balancing act, some people can handle it, but some people react weirdly when faced with the fact that they have ‘othered’ people. Some like to think they ‘don’t see colour’ and not only is that bullshit, but it erases someones entire lived experience.

So lets actually answer what it’s like to be an Other:

  • It’s extremely isolating when you’re around people who won’t help include you
  • It’s weird, just in general
  • You have to find ways of navigating other peoples experiences
  • If you’re in school – be careful, don’t become a target because that’s a thing that happens
  • Not everyone wants to face other people’s lived experiences so you sort of understand what it’s like to be irrelevant to people.
  • You realise how everyone lives such different lives depending on their cultures/class and other intersections of society.
  • You’re in a perpetual state of ‘not being one of them’, so you either adapt to it, or let it tear you a part.

2 comments

  1. As always, thanks for sharing. I keep forgetting you’re in the UK and not here in the States. Even though we’re leaving on two separate continents I feel like we share many of the same experiences living in what is recognized as the western world. Which gets to my comment. You said something that stood out to me. It was the last bullet point of your list of answers for what it’s like living as “an other.”

    “You’re in a perpetual state of ‘not being one of them’, so you either adapt to it, or let it tear you a part.”

    I’m currently working on a miniseries about Internalized Racism and how it affects black life here in the States, and I was wondering if you had any thoughts about things you’ve might’ve internalized growing up in the UK that could be considered “anti-black?”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As always thanks for taking the time to read this, it is weird how a lot of us have shared experiences across the sea isn’t it. Omg my internalised anti blackness could be an essay, I went through a phase of not only rejecting my blackness in order to fit into the wider world, but I also spent a lot of time defining myself as ‘not like other black girls’. It was weird, and a lot of it was because I didn’t get the chance to grow up amongst people of my own culture, so I tried extreme assimilation. I used to also take ‘you’re pretty for a Somali girl’ as a compliment, which now I know is extremely fucked up and because I associated my blackness as a negative, I tried to stuff it into a box. It took a while (20+ years) to finally embrace my culture and heritage and see how my internalised hatred was messing me up big time, hope this helps, honestly this topic is so big it’s hard to pin in down in just one comment.

      Like

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