A Pakistani dream (I)
So I’ve been thinking about it for a while but it feels like a harder task so I’d been putting it off. I was either too sleepy or too tired and Desperate Housewives was easier. But right now, listening to Laal singing Habib Jalib’s poetry, I’m revved up like a clockwork toy all wound up and waiting to whir forward.
In my attempt to make sense and not fall off a cliff of alliterations and magic realistic cotton candy-colored thought bubbles, I will tackle this on two fronts: 1. our perception of America as the place to be and 2. the nerve of American (government, politicians, media and population that falls into this category. I take care to point out the Americans who stand vehemently opposed to what follows) to push Pakistanis and Muslims down a muddy slope of negative stereotypes, sticking them with labels of terrorism, underdevelopment, fundamentalism, extremism and oppression, cover us up with so many labels that you can’t even tell what lies beneath, blind us, stifle us, silence us. Force us into a box that we don’t fit into, a box that they have lived in for years and continue to live to this day. A box they created and maintain. Yes, I mean oppression, discrimination - nightmares that exist in America and should stand out even more blatantly because of the sunshine, wealth and rollercoasters that exist side by side with racism, sexism and poverty.
America has some very bloody stains on its history - we know that and it’s important to remember them. It is even more important to see what still exists. Obama’s president now, racism is gone? Think again. I’m all for optimism but not if it makes you turn away from an issue that still exists. Yes, think of it as a positive step so that it motivates you to go further down a path. Don’t think it’s the end. The poverty in America is different from that in Pakistan, I agree but inequality in this country is more than any other industrialized country. Some facts – An average CEO earns as much as 157 factory workers (Sklar); white males make up only 29% of the workforce but they hold more than 90% of the senior management positions. In 2003, white people had 14 times more in assets than blacks and 11 times more than Latinos. The statistics are similar across all fields of life – and when it comes to the level of vice president and above at Fortune 1000 industrial and Fortune 500 service industries, 96.6% of the executives are white males (Gallaghar).
You think Pakistan is a patriarchy? Come to America and women might not be “oppressed” with veils, but check out statistics on rape, domestic violence, depression, divorce, employment, salary, sexual harassment. Don’t widen your horizon and mind so much that you stop noticing what is on your doorstep. Sure, speak out against what’s wrong in other countries and cultures, walk down righteous paths but do glance down and see if your shoes are covered in your own dirt. Maybe you want to go ahead and deal with that first?
I know it’s been said before, America’s the only country to use the nuclear bombs, America’s a fucking hypocrite but I feel like it still isn’t said enough. And the own problems this country faces are not talked about enough.
Living in Pakistan, America’s the place to be, let’s go study there, it’s a liberal, free country and we can learn so much. And yes, I am learning so much but fortunately for me, I am learning of so many reasons to not be here. Yes, we have our own problems in Pakistan but the history and current state of discrimination in this country exists across so many different levels and more are coming in all the time.
For this part of the blog, I’m going to introduce you to eugenics – a movement I had no idea about. It started with a British scientist who came up with the brilliant idea that not everybody is allowed to live and procreate. Yes, some people are just not ‘right’ so they don’t get to marry and give birth – an effective way to ‘weed out’ and destroy certain genes that really aren’t that good anyways and so should not be passed on.
Who fell in this category of not right? Colored people (who the fuck came up with this term colored people anyways. White is a color too. Well. Actually its achromatic so maybe not but then black is achromatic too. You get what I mean.), disabled people among others. The way to deal with this? Forced sterilization. Yes. This means you cut away body parts so people can’t reproduce. (And they speak out against male circumcision – which has been discovered to have health benefits! Oh, it makes my blood boil. The righteousness of people with such an ugly, terrifying history). So while everyone was up in arms and horror about the sterilization and genocide that Hitler was carrying out, who talks about what happened in America? The horror of the holocaust must not be forgotten. But at the same time, what happened because of eugenics in America must not be forgotten either. To quote from one of my readings: “In 1933, shortly after the Nazis assumed power, they passed a law designed to forcibly sterilize persons with a range of disabilities. The text of this law was, sadly, heavily influenced by the eugenics laws of California” (Reilley). The magnitude of this fact blows my mind away. It was mandated by law in most states! And these continued till 1970s. The 1970s!
Can you believe it?
And yes, everyone knows about racism but I need to talk about the Tuskegee study. Not right now cause I really should start working again but I will. It also went on till the 1970s and even to this day, one of the people behind the study see nothing wrong with it. Mind-blasting.
Seriously, social work school rocks because it makes me see the beauty and potential in my country, in my people. Yes, so we get riled up in Karachi over ethnicities but the discrimination there is nothing compared to the racism that still strikes people in this country, how it affects their day to day existence, the economic differences and the questions their children come home with about their color.
I think of the family in a village in Sindh who lived in a one-room mud hut. A naked child was running in the distance and the only furniture were the two charpoys we were sitting on. One of the men in the house was cooking bhindi. “Will you have lunch with us?”
I think of the generosity, the resilience, the humor, the adventure, the love that exists in my country and I pray, I pray with all my little four-venticled heart that these people are given a chance. Because they deserve so much more.