Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Brown girl. . .

I hate it when people try to label me.  Especially when they don't know me and haven't really had a conversation with me.  Assumptions pretty much fill my day and the same could be said for me too, I most likely have assumptions about other people too, but the tragedy is of course, that most of the time, that I get disappointed by people who I am supposed to respect, revere or render as someone worth looking up to.  But sometimes I think, how far can I look up when the elevation isn't actually that far off the ground?  

I have had many conversations with academics, students, teachers, other practitioner researchers like me and I am interested in everybody's stories.  I can't explain why I find connections a fascinating thing.  I just like listening to people and making sense of what they say, what they see and what they hear.  I supposed they must like the same thing about me too; so busy trying to decipher what I'm all about, like an air of suspicion that doesn't quite evaporate into thin air because it lingers, like the smell of crushed frangipani on a hot day in Samoa, intermingled with all of the other sweet hotness that permeates that air.

I'm more than the colour of my skin
I'm the girl that likes to sing
All I know is what's within
Go to school and learn their ways
Don't have to think at what to say
While my mother sits to pray
I pray for better days
God please help them see
They ain't no different from me
Not above, not beneath
Teach them equality

I was asked the other day by a colleague what my memories of growing up was like in Aotearoa.  It is sad sometimes, because as much as I had a carefree childhood growing up in the 1980s, it wasn't without scenes of discomfort or trouble that I would later see or feel as something natural for someone born into a diaspora society.  As much as you try to blend in and do things like others, they will try their damnedest to remind you that you don't belong, not really.  Even if you do master their abstract knowledge and ways of knowing that they would never bother to reciprocate if they truly valued what you see, think, feel and hear in your seemingly simple world; which in actual fact, is just as complex and multi-layered, multi-pronged, multicultural like fruit salad icecream must taste like when you smell that crushed frangipani, except it isn't in the hotness of Samoa, but in the concrete jungles of urban Auckland city.  

I'm not just a brown girl, in the ring
I'm just a girl, who likes to sing
I'm not just a brown girl, in the ring
I'm just a girl, who likes to sing

What kind of brown girl are you?  That might be a question that has crossed someone's mind when they look at me because even thought I may come across like a sugar in a plum dancing in the ring, but on the daily, there are struggles and demands that mean you have to work twice as hard to prove to your own heritage that you understand the ancient values, the ancient ways and uphold traditions that seem to hold no place in your concrete jungle - yet you must also hoist the banner of assimilation that you willingly raised at your school flagpole because you didn't know any better, you didn't see any colour; but your friend's mother did, because even though the English dripping from your tongue was perfect and sounded as crisp as the crunch of Granny Smith or a Red Delicious apple, depending on what your tastebuds could tolerate - you didn't look English enough, even though it was obvious that there might've been some German blood in you from centuries ago.

I'm more than what they think of me
More than the colour tones that they see
More than urban and r'n'b, more than a slang that I speak
Close your eyes, don't say a word
Don't speak about what you seen or heard
Let's pretend that it's ok
Just the way the devil likes to play
Look in my eyes, look in my eyes
I can't lie, I can't lie
All these years of my life
I'm just from the outside

When you spend your entire life trying to justify or rationalise to people who you are and how you see yourself, at the end of the day, it's doesn't even really matter.  There is a certain level of acceptance, not of the bigotry, but definitely of the acknowledgement of what it means to be who you are and how people think you are.  I have been told by several friends and acquaintances who I have only recently been in touch with since my school days (we're talking over 20 years now), how strong they think I am, how they thought how happy I was at school, and I was.  I can quite easily flip through my high school yearbooks and see how much fun I had at school.  Laughing at pictures of fake groups that I might have been in during photo time, just so we could be in as many different pictures for the yearbook.  If I am from the outside, how do I feel about that?  Am I happy being on the outside looking in, or am I quite happy to walk along the street and savour the moments I have looking at different things and different people that pass me by.  I guess I could confound people because I can be quite comfortable being on the outside, as much as I am being on the inside.

If you don't know by now
Time will show you what, I'm talking about
Said if you don't know me by now
Time will show you what, I'm talking about
I'm talking 'bout

When your purpose is revealed to you, there isn't much you can really do.
You can try to escape it and think you are destined for something else, but a higher power always has something better in mind for you; even when you think with your feeble earthly mind that you have it altogether, there are forces at work that even you can't control.  I highly recommend just letting go, stop trying to be in control and just let time reveal what is meant to be.  You will know once it happens, so enjoy each moment that comes your way, because you don't know if it will be your last.

I'm not just a brown girl, in the ring
I'm just a girl, who likes to sing
I'm not just a brown girl, in the ring
I'm just a girl, who likes to sing

I hope that even if I am a brown girl in the ring, I'm not just a brown girl.
I think there isn't anything simple about being just a brown girl.  I am a strong believer that you are born the heritage culture that you are for a reason.  If you choose to run away or ignore your ancestral links, you will go through life wondering what pieces of you are missing.  I've seen it too many times with adults that I'm surrounded by, trying to find themselves in the histories and genealogies of their families, hoping to make sense of the chaos that they find themselves in, hoping to unlock some deep dark secret that can explain away what they are going through.  

I think the time for silence is over and it's time to use your voice.
How do I know?  I just need to listen to what's inside me now, and not worry so much about being on the outside.  I'm not just a brown girl, in the ring. I'm just a girl, who likes to sing. . .