When I was a child my father would tell me, he wanted to eventually move back to Pakistan. I used to be terrified and worried when this would happen because I was born in America, it’s home. I would often ask him, “daddy why do you want to move back?”, his answer was plain and simple, “bhaita (child) Americans do not view us as their equal, there is so much racism, and I want to eventually live where we are accepted”. I would always argue saying “that’s not true, my friends adore me, you are paranoid”. As I reached my teens, I began to realize what he meant. We grew up in a middle class, predominately white neighborhood of Cincinnati, this was the closest neighborhood to his work. When I turned 12, a new family moved across the street, a family with three daughters. I was so excited, but my excitement was short lived. When my sister and I reached out, we were told we are “brown” and “go back to where you came from”! “Go back to where I came from?” At that time, I thought “Good Samaritan Hospital, because Cincinnati is the only home I know”. They quickly turned our neighbor against us, and slowly everyone on our street stopped talking to us. I remember the hurt and pain I used to feel and the lasting impact it left on a young mind. Our school and our mosque friends were the only people who I felt safe being around. I stopped engaging with the people on our street, we only associated with the Pakistani or Indians nearby, or our school friends. I remember the kids on our street would toilet paper our home, even kill a bird and leave it on our doorstep with racial slurs. I used to wonder how my immigrant mother was handling all of this. She was an extremely strong woman and pretended nothing bothered her. My mother is my hero. I desperately wanted her to assimilate for her own benefit, but she refused. She wore her Pakistani outfits and I, again as a younger me, would be embarrassed by her way of dressing. She would speak to me in our native language Urdu in public, and I used to cringe. Reflecting on it now, I am so ashamed that I did not see she was building confidence for me to deal with prejudice in my future.

Being a typical child, I wanted to fit in. Wanting desperately to be included.

The school I attended was my safe haven, none of the kids made me feel I was different. The teachers, the counselors, and even the Principal made sure I okay. I have always been involved in bringing attention to “sensitive” topics. While at school, I was one of the few non-Black members of P.R.A.I.S.E, Promoting Racial Awareness In School Environment.

I moved on to college where I chose to attend University of Cincinnati over Xavier University. I wanted to experience a public University. I remember my first day of Psych 101, we were asked to break up into groups. That is when it hit me again, I was different. No one wanted me in their group. I remember pairing up with a Black student and realizing “wow my dad may be right”. That year was tough, as I would walk to class, I would hear racial slurs, some I didn’t know what they meant. I started to become defensive and got thicker skin, I learned to ignore the racists on campus, and developed close bonds with my group of friends.

Fast forward 20 years, things have changed. No way! Have you ever been asked to produce a birth certificate by a recruiting firm? I am sure a lot of minorities can relate. I was asked in Chicago to produce a birth certificate because the recruiting company did not believe I was a citizen of the United States. I remember telling them “please close your eyes and listen to my accent carefully”, do I sound foreign in any way? They were not satisfied. I remember calling my sister and mother and asking them to send my birth certificate showing I was born in the USA. I should never have experienced this in 2008.

Moving ahead now to being Brown in Houston, Texas. Wow! Where do I begin? In the Midwest no one discusses religion or politics, something I learned quickly Texans are obsessed with discussing. Our realtor right off the bat said, “I want you to know I love Texas and I am a Republican”. I was disgusted, why? Because I do not need to know your religion, your color, your stance in politics. We were simply doing business with her. I am not a Political person. I do not stereotype, and I do not like being type cast. Going back two years when I experienced firsthand racism in a workplace. I gave up accounting and desperately wanted a job in PR. I joined a PR company, which shall remain anonymous for my liability sake. In the beginning things were fine except they had me, a 40-year-old at that time, working for an outwardly Christian White female who refused to look at me directly. I remember thinking she is 23, I am probably the first minority she has ever come across, so kill her with kindness. I tried my best to be kind and ignore her jabs. The bosses at that time seemed to be very “cool” with me so she was bearable. One day my boss comes in and says, “hey I noticed you have the same name as a lawyer named Rabia Chaudry”, How is that possible? I replied, “because she’s Pakistani and so am I.” The look on her face was unbelievable! Rabia Chaudry, a Lawyer, had been defending a case and had a podcast series called “Serial”. A few years back everyone I knew was listening to the podcast. My boss immediately said, “So you mean to tell me you’re the same ethnicity as the guy Adnan who killed the Korean girl?” Shocked at first at her audacity, but I coolly replied, “yes I am of Pakistani descent”. Next question out of her mouth “What about your husband?” I said, “well he too is Pakistani”. (At this point I am trying to ignore the completely ignorant and offensive remark regarding Adnan and I being the same). I will never forget the next thing, “well I mean how is he where he is, I thought you guys were Persian!” Um no! Pakistani Americans are hardworking and hard work leads you to where we are today. It started a very uncomfortable surprised slash confused tone; I did not even know how to react. And let me tell you, things became weird REAL fast! I ended up resigning due to the hostile environment they created for me. The 23-year-old was suddenly given so much authority which eventually drove me out. I have never cried because of work. I used to come home every night and sob hysterically. My husband would tell me, look obviously they have an issue with who you are, your dignity comes first! And I just could not accept it. When I finally decided to walk, they were elated! I asked my boss what she would do if she were treated like dirt by a 23 year old who would toss the bible (figuratively speaking) and blatant ignorance and privilege at you, instead of trying to rectify the situation, she said “I would quit”. She was so transparent at that moment. She was my boss, she was the boss of the 23-year-old, why did she refuse to fix the problem? My opinion will always be this, because I am a Brown person who was disposable.

I thought there was something wrong with me. All of this took a psychological toll on me. I felt I never wanted to work full time in the US ever again, because no matter what degree/level of education I would never be treated with respect.

Today I am proud of being Brown, a Pakistani AMERICAN. Not being White is and will always be a hurdle, which is why we must embrace our diversity. I am sure moments like mine are happening all the time. I felt at times if you are a minority you are disposable, and they feel you are beneath them. Not all, but I have several of these experiences in several different cities. Here’s another one, I have been told by my recruiters “they loved your resume but when they heard your name they passed”. So yes, there is a thing called “White privilege.” I have had several conversations about the murder of George Floyd, and it is incredible people are still completely ignorant. They have no idea how much their words can hurt and affect someone’s future.

Nothing in the past 42 years of my life have changed. I am still double screened at airports, my 8 year- old son was a target of racial profiling at the airport. I still get the stares, I still see people move tables when I sit down, I still get rejected by companies based on my name and color.

This is not a country of one race or religion. This is our country; we deserve equal rights. The Black communities across this country have generations of blood, sweat, and tears poured into building where we are now. And through it all they have experienced racism at levels, I can’t possibly comprehend. Now is the time to come together. Not until we rectify and unite nothing will change.

“White Privilege” is real, and my father was right. I hope who ever is reading this understands, I am just a Midwest girl just like countless others who is still trying to tell you this is my home.

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