I was born and raised in North West London, England. I am a British Indian and while my parents are Indian they are not from India. My dad was born and raised in Tanzania and my mum was born and raised in Madagascar. Thus, I grew up with a blend of British and Indian cultures. I’ve supported clients as a BIPOC counsellor in Vancouver who identify with two cultures. For example, a Canadian-born Filipino.
Like many others, I grew up learning to identify as an ethnic minority. I left England a decade ago and became familiar with the terms person of colour and then women of colour. More recently, I learnt the term BIPOC. As a BIPOC counsellor living in Vancouver, I support clients who identify as BIPOC and some of them share how their identity impacts them in their day-to-day life.
Whilst living in Canada, I was referred to as East Indian and I’ve now learnt that Indians come under the umbrella term South Asian. When completing any form that requires my ethnic background, I choose to click the other box as there is no option to select British Indian here in BC. I’ve lived in Vancouver for over two years and I’ve met other British Indians who are in a similar position to me.
Nationality versus ethnicity
Over the years I’ve met people who have come to the conclusion that I’m English and when I politely correct them and explain I’m not, I’m faced with a puzzled look. I go and explain that I’m not English because I’m not white. I continue by explaining that I’m brown and Indian. More often than not, I’m asked where in India my parents are from and I then have to explain that they are not from India. As a BIPOC counsellor, I’ve worked with clients whose parents were born in various countries. For example, I’ve supported women whose Indian parents were born and raised in Kenya or Uganda.
Cultural norms and values
I, similar to many others, grew up with a combination of cultural norms. On the one hand, Western norms and values were reinforced by schools, the media, and society at large. At the same time, on the other hand, cultural norms and values were reinforced by immediate family, extended family members, places of worship, and local communities. I grew up trying to maintain a balance between two very different cultures.
As a BIPOC counsellor, I’ve supported a range of clients who struggle to maintain a balance. For example, in cases when a client has decided to put their individual needs or wants first, they are often left feeling guilty. These clients struggle to live their lives, even though they are living it on their terms, as they are not always accepted by their immediate family. Thus, these clients share feelings of shame even though they have not done anything wrong.
American-born confused Desi
I learnt about the above term whilst living in Vancouver and it refers to any Indian, Pakistani, or Bangladeshi born or raised in America. What are your thoughts?