Where did you learn your English?

Sameer Belgaumi
Ann Arbor, MI
Understanding Race Project- University of Michigan

I’m a Pakistani-American who grew up in Saudi Arabia. I hear this question so often that I wish I had a better reason than “I was born speaking it.” The truth that English was one of the first languages I learned, seems like such a let down to their looks of astonishment that I assume betray vastly more intriguing expectations. I always feel pressured to break into story about how growing up in a strange desert dystopia that was every possible representation of the word ‘harsh’ (which it was not), I deciphered the strange symbols of the English language from books I collected in secret, hidden from the gaze of some Orwellian monarch. See racism stems from not being able to tell your own story, because someone else has told one about you in a much louder voice. When people hear me talking, they think I’m an exception to the general truth about a people or a region, when really I’m the norm and their perception has always been flawed.

 

Tweets by Michele Norris