I don’t need to be in any Asian societies to be proud of my ethnicity

I only notice when I’m tagged in a Facebook photo at the Jug that everyone else is white

From the point of view of someone who isn’t involved in any Asian societies, Warwick can often lack the pool of diversity that I’ve been used to back home in London.

Some people in my position join Asian societies, but I don’t feel that it’s necessary.

Quite often, I don’t notice my ethnicity. I spend so much time around people who are for the most part of white European backgrounds that I only notice when I’m tagged in a Facebook photo at the Jug that I’m a brown gem in a sea of white crystals.

Where’s Brown Wally – beginner’s edition

Other times I see another brown guy at Smack or Switch and the Jurassic Park theme tune comes into my head. Once a brown guy came up to me in Freshers week and told me that “we need to stick together!” I never saw him again.

At this point, the term “coconut” comes to my mind. In racial slang, it refers to people who are “brown on the outside, and white on the inside”. I’ve heard this term used many times against me, and other friends, and I wonder why.

To me this suggests that many ethnic minorities feel the need to reject part of their native cultures in order to be part of the cultures they are surrounded by. Perhaps some minorities are content with being called a “coconut” because it means that they are finally “white” (whatever that means) and are “part of society”.

Maybe this is why they perhaps would be less inclined to have more friends of the same ethnicity, and become generally less associated with their native culture.

dancing to the sound of multiculuralism

If being “brown” or “white” is defined by your actions, does me not hanging out with other Tamils or people of similar ethnic backgrounds make me “white”?  Or worse, am I abandoning” my Tamil heritage?

The answer is no.

You can still represent your ethnic identity without having to care about whether you are adhering to ethnic stereotypes which are quite frankly offensive to those, like me, and you, who don’t care about racial labels.

Ethnic minorities shouldn’t have to feel like they need to reject an inherent part of themselves just to fit into a group. But I also shouldn’t have to join any Asian societies to prove that I’m Tamil. It’s not that I have anything against Asian socs or the people who join them, I just don’t feel like it’s my kind of thing.

And this leads me to my conclusive feeling: pride.

I'm not photogenic, I just bring a great range of colours to the table

I’m not photogenic, I just bring a great range of colours to the table

Never have I been more proud of being a French-born Tamil than my time at Warwick. I’ve often dealt with people who don’t even know who or what Tamils are – one friend thought I said ‘Tunnel’ instead of ‘Tamil’. That led to an interesting misunderstanding about Tamils and moles.

But that’s calm. Educating people means I get to remind myself how great being Tamil is – A beautiful culture, a beautiful language, and a beautiful people (me for example.)

And once you realise that you’re the only brown person in that Facebook picture, you also realise what an important role that you, and other ethnic minorities, have in Western society – to mingle and educate.

Of course, it’s dangerous to homogenize every experience of ethnic minorities into one article – Asia is a continent too rich a mixture of cultures to compress into one experience.

Let’s stop prescribing shameless racial labels, and let’s start educating each other about our cultures.