By Mantripat Dhami, ’23
I refer to myself as the daughter of immigrants, an Asian American, a Sikh, and a Desi person.
All of these sublabels define an even larger label: person of color. But while I maintain my
identity as a person of color, I also maintain my role as a writer – of fictional prose, screenplay,
and poetry. Being a person of color with these identities can be burdening due to our systematic
alienation. I write about handling these valuable labels and identities to feel seen and to feel
relieved. When I’m done writing, I inevitably feel better.
According to Merriam Webster, an immigrant is “a person who comes to a country to establish
permanent residence.” The opposite of an immigrant is a citizen, but after my parents got their
citizenship, they were treated the same way. Racially motivated spam calls flooded their phones,
and people bashed their English.
People of color
become citizens, but are
Treated the same way
According to many dictionaries, desi translates to “indigenous,” but the Urban Dictionary may
have an updated definition: “For Indians/Pakistanis/Bengalis abroad, it has become a term that
mainly identifies another fellow Indian/Pakistani/Bengali.” For Desis, this identity means both
that they know their identity and that they know they aren’t thought of as American citizens.
That identity is why my parents weren’t treated like they were citizens.
The reason why a
new citizen is treated
the same as before
According to Cambridge Dictionary, an Asian is “belonging to or relating to Asia and its
people.” Everyone shares that definition, of course, but Americans who define “Asian” in this
way only seem to include East Asians. I get excited hearing about Hollywood representing the
Asian community, believing that I will finally get representation. But on the screen I only see
East Asians with the fairest skin in the entire community. The East Asian community is still
underrepresented, but if the South Asian community is lucky, the filmmakers represent one
fair-skinned Indian actor for every ten East Asian actors. Recognizing this disparity in
representation was how I learned about American colorism towards Asians I resemble the most.
The difference between
being tan and being fair
in terms of privilege
In class, teachers taught the correct pronunciation of Antoinette, Sean, and Emmanuel, but no
one ever corrected students when they pronounced Sikh as “seek.” My school’s social studies
department was too unaware to know how it’s pronounced— just as unaware as it was to define
Sikhism as a mixture of Hinduism and Islam. In the English language, my religion is pronounced
“sick,” but to be fully accurate, emphasis must be placed on the “K.”
We are not SEEKING
anything. I do not know what
we as a group SEEK.
I have been interested in writing haikus since taking creative writing during my junior year. What
I found unique about this writing style was how so few words and only 17 syllables can have
such an effect on the reader. So writing haikus on my identity is the perfect way to poignantly
express and introduce who I am. Through writing, I strengthen the feeling that everyone should
belong in a community where everyone is kind to one another and shares ideals of love and
nonviolence. Through writing I can show what the world looks like through my point of view; I
can expose people to the beauty of different identities in my writing. I hope that my expression
of creative writing will make myself and others feel more represented in our American