When I was in primary school, I was called a nigger because I have brown skin colour. When I was in lycée/high school, I was called a terrorist because I am a Muslim. When I was in Uni, I was called an oppressed and brainwashed woman, who can’t think for herself because I am a Muslim woman, who also happens to be a feminist. When I was an adult, I learned my lesson and tried to not reveal my religion. But it always somehow comes out. And whenever it does, I see how the looks in some people’s eyes changes.
I am Luxembourgish. I was born here, raised here and now I work here. And I even have an official document that defines me as a Luxembourgish citizen: my passport. This is supposed to be my home country. So why don’t I feel like it? I feel like I always have to prove my “Luxembourgishness” again and again every fucking time.
Yes, I speak and understand all the local languages (plus a couple of other ones), I wear “normal” clothes (what is normal anyway?), I pay my taxes, I do charity work and I take part in the local activities that interest me. How much more can I integrate? Should I try to change my skin colour? Or stop believing in my faith just for the sake of “integration”? Or drink alcohol for the sake of fitting in and not being the awkward person with a glass of orange juice at work-gatherings? Or maybe change my name so it sound more Luxembourgish and not so foreign. My name that my forefathers carried while fighting for their lives and their rights as a religious minority in India during the 1947 separation. My name, which is part of my past, part of me. Of course, as a kid I wished I had a more “normal” name so that it wouldn’t be so embarrassing every time we had a new teacher in school who wouldn’t know how to pronounce it.
In this naive head of mine, I like to believe that we live in a free world, a democracy where everybody can be themselves. But racism exists. Islamophobia exists. Anti-Semitism exists. Yes, it’s more subtle now, more hidden. I am allowed to sit wherever I want to in a bus. But my name and my skin colour still disturb when it comes to finding a job or an apartment. You know, prejudice and all.
But the worst part are the remarks and condescending looks. How many times have people looked at me with disgust and hate? How many unkind remarks did we get after 9/11 whenever we went to Belle Etoile with my mother, who wears a hijab (it seems like I have to precise that it is her choice to wear that piece of cloth on her head and that my evil misogynist father didn’t force her)? How many times have I felt like a second class citizen who has to be eternally grateful to this country for being allowed to breathe its precious air?
First you ignore it. But then it starts to hurt. Because this is supposed to be my home town. My safe heaven. Where else I am supposed to go? India? The country I only spent my summer holidays in as a kid? Where am I supposed to belong? Because we all do have a desire to belong somewhere. Or so Maslow’s pyramid says. If I could, I would create a cute little country for all the misfits not belonging in any category, where people would look beyond the skin colour or religion.
Because I am more than my skin colour or my religion. I am a person who tries to lead an honest and simple life. I love going to the movies and psychoanalysing them afterwards. I love to travel, far and near. I love capturing things around me. I love walking in the woods. I love spending time with my 3-year-old niece. I have an addiction of making different kinds of to-do lists (restaurants to try out, places to go, movies to watch etc). I love exploring. I like going to new cafes and meeting new people, people from all kind of backgrounds. I love interesting conversations.
Do I believe in terrorism? No! Do I believe that killing people who drew a satirical cartoon was a noble thing? No! So after every terrorism attack, why do I have to justify myself? Terrorism is a real thing but I am not responsible for other people, who clearly have a psychological problem. I don’t hate the LGTB community. I don’t hate Atheists or Christians and no I don’t think that Jews are my enemies. I accept and respect everyone in all their differences. So why can’t people do the same for me?
Of course, I do not want to generalise a whole group of people. I have also met some beautiful and kind souls who are tolerant and open minded. And of course, this is only my story and not a generalised story of every child of immigrants born in this country.
I am sorry for this long ranting session. I know these words sound like a person who has first-world problems. After all, I can be thankful that I don’t have to gamble with my life and get on a boat to hopefully reach a country like Luxembourg where hopefully a better life is waiting for me.
But why write about this now? I would like to answer this question with an example that often occurs in my life as a brown person living in Luxembourg:
Last Saturday, I was meeting someone for lunch in the city. Because I was early, I went to the local market to pass time. I was walking around aimlessly and looking at things. Then I heard a bit of a conversation between the 2 jam-ladies in their stall and a customer. They were discussing about how angry they are that Luxembourg HAS TO welcome a couple of hundreds of refugees. They just couldn’t believe it. At that moment I walked passed their stall and then one of the jam-lady pointed at me and said with disgust (in Luxembourgish of course): Then we will have more of those sort in OUR country. Of course, she was assuming that I do not understand any of the local languages because, well I have brown skin.
I am exhausted with all the justifying and having to prove myself. I am sad when I read some people’s mean opinions on the internet. I am tired of those looks and those unkind remarks.
Maybe I am too sensitive. Maybe even a bit paranoid. Maybe I should just let it all go.