Living in a Brown Family
Updated: Sep 9, 2020
Growing up with immigrant parents is definitely an experience. You see, the cultural differences between the Eastern vs. Western cultures are basically polar opposite. In Eastern cultures, family is valued over the individual - if you want to be independent, you will be viewed as selfish and careless. On the flip side, if you are not assertive with your life choices, you are viewed as passive and a pushover in the Western culture.
So how does one navigate through such overlap of the two stark cultures? How does one find a middle ground where you are accepted for both cultures ? Finding balance. Now this can look like many things: You can incorporate your cultural music, traditions, and language into your daily life, build a community where you have other brown people who have grown up with immigrant parents, as well as finding things that define who you are and want to be.
Oftentimes, first generation individuals find themselves having to owe their immigrant parents whether that be through higher education, financial success, or taking on opportunities to show that their parents' sacrifice of leaving behind the motherland was worth a better future for their children. I fully support respecting and showing our parents that their hard work has definitely been worth changing their whole lives. I also believe that doing what makes us happy is just as important and being able to have those candid conversations of this is what makes me happy and brings me joy. Because yes, "what will people in the community say?" but also, what do YOU want to do in life? Our parents have this mentality that others opinions weigh heavier than their children's dreams and goals when they stray away from the common path. "Oh you don't want to be a doctor or a dentist or an engineer? A nurse? A lawyer? What do you mean you want to make art or music? That's not what we came here to do. That's not what we have planned for you. That's not why we work day and night shifts."
But for what? Mental health has hit an all time high, especially in the brown community. I get it, it's still a stigma for many families but it shouldn't be. All this added stress and pressure and expectations that cause families to grow apart. For what? Just because your brown kid doesn't do what you want them to? It is stressful enough growing up when you're too Indian or Too American, where you feel like you just don't ever quite belong. We can't change how our parents view this world that they had to learn to adjust to. What we can do is try to speak at their level, in their language to help them understand that we are not against them or our culture. Challenging and questioning old ways that no longer serve us is important for growth. It is important in breaking generational cycles of trauma and inequality. Let's use our voice to help our community change for the better. Let's join with our parents to really understand their stories and merge our worlds so that we can live healthier lives.