Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Token White Wife

In American culture there is the concept of the "token black guy." This is the African American character in movies or TV shows who merely smiles,stays out of the conversation and says things like "Damn!","Shit! The point being that there's a non-white person there, thus making the whole atmosphere more diverse. It's sad and pathetic in many instances and has also become somewhat of a joke when you see this now. 

I found this video on YouTube that explains it quite well with a bit of humor and a dose of reality.
 


America is certainly not beyond racism yet but it's not just an American problem. Nor is racism just a white person's problem. People of all races can be racist. And as I've learned, you don't have to be black to be a 'token' of sorts.

I see the same trends in the pardesi groups that I've been a part of. Many Indians around us view us differently because of our foreign ethnicity. It doesn't seem to matter which ethnicity as long as it's foreign. I've written about this before. Rohit's friends have flat out asked what the benefit is for them for him to be married to a white woman. The fuck?

This notion was slammed in my face even more so recently. Rohit is looking for a newer, better job. He's got that 2 year itch going that most NRI's seem to get after their first job in a new country. They know how the system works and use it wisely. He's at that point. 

So much to my dismay, one evening he all but begs me to attend an event I didn't want to go to because some high up the chain IT guy is going to be there and he wanted this guy to see he was married to a white American woman. While we were sitting at the table chatting with this guy and as I noticed that he kept looking over at me to seek my one word approving answers or an accepting gaze. 

His wife got up half way through the conversation and left and I shortly after dismissed myself as part of the conversation. I had no hard feelings toward her. Perhaps she observed the same thing I did. It unnerved me at that moment because I realized just how many times I have been the token white wife to my husband and his family.

I don't doubt they love me. I'm sure they had no ill will or bad intentions. However, I cannot stress enough how much I HATED being emotionally bullied to go downstairs and sit in a room full of friends or visitors with them only asking once in a while 'do you like?' or 'how are you?' 

I was never part of those conversations. I never even saw attempts to include me. Of course, I knew enough Punjabi to know when they were talking about me in the conversation and some of what they were saying but it was never directed to me, only about me. 

To hear my husband tell it now, they always included me. He really doesn't understand. He has no idea the loneliness, the feelings of hurt and anger that those situations can brew. He thinks that I was 'getting all the attention' and thus I should have eaten it up. I didn't. 

I don't enjoy attention. I'm not an actress on a stage. That's not my calling. I enjoy the simple peace of true bonds, relationships and emotions. Not some fleeting moments where people act like it's great that they have someone of a different ethnicity in the group. Ugh. 

That night at dinner was and will be the last time I ever walk into that kind of situation again. I refuse. Call me hard headed and stubborn, I don't care. No true glory comes from show casing a human being this way. It's sickening. I'm not a trophy. I'm not a token. I'm a person. If you can't value me for that, then leave me alone. 

**Just FYI, I'm not saying my husband married me to have a white woman around and I'm not trying to diminish his feelings for me. He loves me. I'm just voicing my hatred for a nasty, rotten, stupid ideal that you're somehow a better person by knowing or being involved with someone of a different skin color. 

How about you? Have you ever felt this way?

12 comments:

  1. I have been the token "firangi" in many social gathering, invited to birthday parties of kids me or my daughter were just aquainted to but not super close just so it would lend some prestige to the host. I was part of a circle where it became clearer and clearer after each gatherings that I was just there to make the gathering "international looking" with them pretty much ignoring me while I was there. So yeah totally know how it feels, and I now really avoid these type of events and people in my life, like you said, I am not a trophy and I have plenty of friends, who value my company beyond my skin color.

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    1. It's too bad blogger doesn't have like buttons. I don't go to those type of events normally either, especially not when I know that's what's going on. I have other Indian friends and coworkers I talk to that don't act this way. Maybe that's why I still hang out with them lol.

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    2. @appi

      in India when a dil comes to her in laws place people come to see the bride. If the bride does not show up, it has a negative effect. that is why these gatherings are important. In India u must register your presence lest somebody feels that there is something wrong with the family. It is also assumed that the bride would interact only when spoken to and often the conversation is about her and not at her. sometimes it happens with men too. In Your case the situation was a bit more complicated by the language problem. It is obvious that the new bride does not know many people and there are lots of them so the feeling of loneliness is also natural.

      The point I wish to make that it is not about you being a foreigner it happens with most Indian DiLs.

      apple

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    3. That makes sense. I hate it though. If that's the case, I'm sure most Indian women hate it too then. But there's also been other situations where I wasn't the bride, I was the visitor at a function of some sort where they took my pictures when I clearly didn't know anyone there, etc. Those things drive me nuts.

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  2. yes, been there. I've been in India without my husband for some time and was kindly forced to join some of the gatherings. I know enough Gujarati to say some words here and there and understand what they were talking about but there were times when nobody really made attempts to include me. The "funny" thing is that my husband told me he thought I would have participated more... like how!??I wish he could try and see how it feels
    Silvia

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    1. I can totally related to this

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    2. Exactly! How could you participate more? I can't count the number of times I sat in a room not being part of a conversation and feeling really left out. Very little if any effort was made to include me too. My husband doesn't understand how I felt when all that was going on either. I don't even know how to reason with him on that one lol.

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  3. I don't know but people do not know what to make of a foreigner. first it is language problem what to say what not to say.

    even With those who have no language problem, they still don't know what to say. In India the conversation starts with family and personal details which would be rather rude to ask a foreigner as i gather through these blogs. how to break the ice. what is of interest to me would not be of interest to u. so everyone is not trying to avoid u. They just do not know what to make of you.

    my personal experience with foreigners is that they talk very little and are not very outgoing. an Indian speaks three sentences the foreigner says two words or one sentence which gives the impression of arrogance and indifference. they are always on the defensive. then u think is he suspicious of me or trying to pull my leg. They often have an amused look on their faces while in India as if India is some kind of strange place. They are really not interested in conversation which is rather opposite to Indian nature. no offence meant I have often found foreigners to be very uncommunicative. sometimes u feel stupid wasting your energy.

    The point and topics of conversation are simply different.

    as far as trophy thing is concerned it is legacy of our caste system and colonial heritage whereby a fair person is always considered superior.

    apple

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  4. I don't want to say it is good or bad but that is how social interaction is in India.

    apple

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    1. Having been the foreigner at many gatherings in India I can say that it's probably not arrogance or disinterest. More likely that they are shy, overwhelmed and feeling out of place.

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  5. Ugh. After putting up with being the token "firangi" or "DIL on display" for the first 5 years of my marriage I just don't do it any more. There are a few community events I have to go every year at embassies & local gov't events where I'm ignored & purely ornamental that I can't get out of. But that's it. If I'm really bored I pull out my phone & play Candy Crush. :P

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    1. I'm onto Farmville 2 LOL. It works. Anything to pass the time until it's over. I thankfully won't have to endure this too much more either. I'm sure when I got back to India I'll have to but that's a long way off.

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