This guest column is written through a partnership with the University of Alberta International Students’ Association and The Gateway.
I crowned a maroon turban
I brushed my swaying long beard
I donned a matching maroon quarter-zip
And khaki trousers, a little smeared
I wore my leather boots that morning
And as I stood to go out the door
My eyes fell onto the closet mirror
I flashed myself a grin you’d adore
Then rose an unexpected wave
Of doubt, dread, fright of rejection
Like every time before
It broke my heart, esteem, life direction
I thought: Are my beard hairs too disorderly?
Those shaved men on TV look so handsome…
Is my turban too intimidating?
Will I ever get a girl other than mum?
I stood there disoriented
Until sense of time and place returned
T’was the media getting to my brain, I realized
Within myself, guilt and anger churned
These moments leave me dead scared
As I realize my brain absorbs subconsciously
The images stereotypical, white, muscled-up men
Who get the glory in every movie I see
No show, no scene, no lotion ad
that’s lead by someone like me
No plots focused on my problems
Just love-stories of hetero peeps
No reflection that someone like me exists
No role for me to believe
No representation of my identity
No stories of my people’s great deeds
I force myself to remember
What really matters most to me
My mum, my dad, my loving Nanak
Their teachings of serving everyone I meet
I walk out the door with pride
My beard stands-up for each and everyone
who refuses to look different
than who they truly want to become
I descend the steps of a subway station
Grabbing the free newspaper today
I board the train; bag between my feet
Proudly reading while I hold and sway
Breaking news: Bill 21 passed, Bravo Québec!
François Legault has promised all
No more turbaned men as teachers
No turbaned men on police calls
No hijab-wearing person shall teach your kids
No doctors with kippahs you’ll have to bear
No transit drivers with beards-a-flowing
Government positions? Don’t they dare
I sink to the floor; I feel dizzy
The person in front gives their hand
I tremble; this time I don’t have
The courage to get up and stand
When others’ kids and even my own
will not see a person like me
in any position of power or influence
What will they grow up to believe?
That being turbaned means being crap?
That diversity is a thing of the past?
That humans are inherently unequal?
That killing George Floyd was legal?
T’was already hard enough
To be who I was meant to be
T’was just the media, but now it’s everything
Telling me I shouldn’t be
That day I shattered; I’m sorry folks
I believed them and internalized that I suck
I failed all of us who differ
I’ve failed every one of us
It’s been two years since that legislation passed
And down it hasn’t been struck
In Canada? In 2021? That happens?
And no one else gives a fuck?
Where’s the Court? Where’s the Charter?
Where’s the Opposition? Where are the People?
Where are the “checks and balances”? Where are the rights?
Where’s the media? Where are the candle lights?
To the haters, I surrender, I acknowledge:
You’ve won, you’ve won, you’ve won
Now how much further will you go?
To make me take off my turban.
What will you get from it?
I’ve not been able to figure out
I beg of you; please let me life
Without my turban, I will fade out.
This guest column is written through a partnership with the University of Alberta International Students’ Association (ISA) and The Gateway. To learn more about the ISA or to get involved with them visit their website.