YOU HAVE THE FLOOR
I didn’t realize this until recently, but I think I’ve always been quite insecure about my intelligence. Not because I was bad at school, except for maths -let’s be real- but because I think every time I didn’t know something and asked about it, the response was usually “you don’t know that?”. I think we all tend to do this, ridicule someone for not knowing something we might expect them to know. But the thing is there’s a world of information out there that we’re never going to know, and just because someone else happens to know it and you don’t doesn’t make you less intelligent, it just means you’re educating yourself on different matters. Anyway, I’m gonna stop my philosophical rant and talk more about why I’ve felt this way for quite some time. If you’ve grown up a girl in India you know what it’s like to wear shorts out in public; it’s not the most comfortable feeling having people look you up and down as if you’re strutting the streets naked. So, I’d expect that behavior from strangers, but when this behaviour was mirrored by people I knew personally, it didn't give me the best feeling in the world.. Every time I wore skirts or shorts at gatherings the remarks I’d always hear were “oh look, fashion jhaadne aayi hai” (she’s showing off her fashion sense), but if you looked at photos of me back then, those outfits were anything but fashion. These comments contributed to my intellectual insecurities because I felt like people didn’t value my contributions to conversations because they saw me as just the girl who liked to dress up and look pretty (which is not how I felt; I had hidden insecurities about my appearance). My intellectual insecurity translated into my life in college, this time not because of the way I dressed, but because of the colour of my skin. Most of my classes were taught by white male professors to mostly white students, and when open discussions occurred, it was always the white man who spoke first. It’s not that what they said didn’t have value, because it did. But the topics they would talk about were usually the ones they were least impacted by: the poverty gap in the US, or lack of access to education, what it feels like to be an outsider. These are experiences that many people will never have, but may be the first to “shed light on it” in a classroom setting. It reminded me of what Michelle Obama wrote in her book 'Becoming' about white men in her undergraduate classes. To this day, her quote still has value: “Hearing them, I realised that they weren’t at all smarter than the rest of us. They were simply emboldened, floating on an ancient tide of superiority, buoyed by the fact that history had never told them anything different.” All this is to say that I still have moments where I silence myself, but it’s no longer because I’m afraid to be perceived a certain way, but because I know it’s not my time to speak and the floor belongs to those who have historically not had it.
By Komal Gandhi