Paarth Madan

A medium to iterate on my own thoughts.

A Reflection on Race

Posted at — Jun 6, 2020

In light of the recent tragedy where, yet another, innocent black man was killed at the whims of police, I’ve decided to do some much needed introspection.

My platform – this blog – while small (if existent at all?) is a platform nonetheless. As such, I see value in sharing my personal audit.

I acknowledge that part of the motivation for this post might come from a desire to feel like I’m doing my part.

A place of selfishness.

I hope in stating this, and realizing this as a component, I suppress the desire and use this only as a way to explore my personal biases. I encourage you to do the same, whether shared publicly or not.

Black culture has, does, and will continue to influence me in so many ways.

The way I clothe myself, the music I listen to, my personal mindset, the sports I enjoy playing and watching, my personality. All heavily influenced by, and in some sense mimicking, our Black brothers and sisters.

Living in Brampton as a young brown male, I’ve naturally adopted it’s culture. The culture is, at large, an amalgamation between the Punjabi and Black communities. The slang we use, the way we dress, the way we greet one another, the attraction to specific sports, the personalities and ideals we’ve come up with as a community, the music we’ve grown fond to – all so heavily influenced by the Black community.

My earliest memories date back to elementary school, listening to Wayne tracks with friends during recess, learning how to dougie and shooting hoops. What seemed like the norm to me, I learned later wasn’t the experience all children had.

My adoption of Black culture was normal to me.

As kids, we’re vulnerable, malleable, easily-influenced.

We’re influenced by what we see, and what we’re surrounded by. Being surrounded by a large mix of black kids, I, just as all the other brown kids, started to do as they did. Play as they did, listen to music as they did, and so on and so forth. The lines began to blur, and as a kid, it was simply what all the kids were doing.

As a child, this culture adoption was merely an attempt to fit in. Reflecting back on it, later in life, I realize it wasn’t culture adoption. It was culture appropriation.

The difference, and perhaps center of this reflection, is the privilege I have to decouple the culture, from the struggles behind them.

I, just as many other brown kids, try to be as black as we can without adopting any of the struggles or hardships that come with the change in melanin.

It’s cowardice to say that, “it’s hard to imagine what it’s like facing adversity based on your skin colour”, and ending the discussion there. Being hard to imagine isn’t an acceptable conclusion. It’s avoiding trying to understand.


Truly and genuinely take the time to think about what that means. I’m unable to effectively articulate what truly realizing this means.

If it’s one thing I encourage anyone to do from reading this, is to stop and really think about the simple fact that based on the way you look, you can be treated differently.

Some innate quality about you, suddenly changes everything.

I can low-ride my jeans, blast 2Pac, and that doesn’t prohibit me, or limit my opportunities, in pursuing a career in the tech industry.

It doesn’t change how I’m perceived when I go for a run at 1AM.

I don’t think the adoption of the culture is necessarily a bad thing. It’s just imperative that with the adoption of the culture, that you truly take the time to understand the substance behind the culture.

The struggle behind the dance. The struggle behind the sport. The struggle behind the lyrics.

As someone of South Asian descent, it’s equally as important to recognize the racism within our own communities. Why among our communities is it better to possess fair skin?

I’ve heard plenty of remarks by members in my own community, speaking negatively about Black folks. What’s worse is the facade and evasiveness with which it’s portrayed. It’s never been explicitly said, maybe just a look, an implication. No one told me that I should be more cautious when I see a group of black males walking, and yet, this is something that seemed intrinsic to me as a kid. Blatantly racist views blanketed in a caring or cautious sentiment.

As a kid, I picked up on these cues, unfortunately. I recognize that this may be me dodging ownership of some prejudice I may possess. I think it’s important to recognize the origin of your own potential prejudice, and in tracing these lines, one can work on eradicating them.

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