I have been on trial since the day I was born.
In every social, academic, or professional environment I have participated in, the shade of my complexion has served as a defining factor of my experience. I never quite understood what was so interesting about my skin color’s pigment, but it has undoubtedly been fascinating for those who know the very least about me. Countless individuals have gazed upon my face with a quizzical expression, trying to gauge out what part of the earth my ancestors originated from. Only by understanding what my ethnic makeup is will they be able to delve past the superficial questions of “where are you from?” “Were you born here?” “Are your parents from here?” After these extremely important and pressing questions are answered, will I be graced with questions about who I am, why I’m here, and what’s important to me?
My name has served as the site of many micro-aggressions and confusion, as many of my peers struggle to understand why the pronunciation of my name does not conform to what they think it should sound like. As they re-engineer my name to make it easier to slip off their tongues, I find myself in the uphill battle of correcting them. My friends would always laugh at me and ask why I insisted on everyone pronouncing my name correctly as if my name was just a string of sounds with not much to offer about a person. I wholeheartedly disagree.
My name carries the history of my family, my ancestors, and the Persian culture I am so proud to be a part of. My name means star, and I am committed to ensuring that everyone in the universe pronounces my name correctly. Tara rhymes with my sister’s name, which mirrors the Persian tradition of having the names of siblings rhyme and compliment each other. I think of my mother, and my mother’s mother, and all the exceptional women who worked to have my name in its feminine glory to be spoken with pride and confidence. My name represents the home of my ancestors and the homeland I wish so deeply to visit freely, which I feel simultaneously alienated and connected to.
We were not given names to have them deconstructed by those who believe their comfort is more important than my culture, family, history, and identity.
I live my life covered in tan skin, dark eyes, darker hair, and big, thick curly hair. In pictures, I see faces that carry eyes, lips, and hair similar to mine. But they reside halfway across the world, in lands far different from the one I was born in, and continue to live in today. As I look out into the lands around me, I feel disillusioned, as I desperately look for features that look like mine, but it’s in vain. I meet the eyes of hundreds of strangers, but none share the eyes that my family and I possess.
As words trickle down my tongue, I speak English clearly with conviction, to the surprise of those who do not share the same tan skin as mine. I think of my life as a trial and my body as a target, and I tire myself out trying to prove to those who wrongfully assume they are indigenous to this land that I was born here, and even if I wasn’t, I still belong here.
One glance upon my tan skin, dark eyes, darker hair, and big, thick curly hair, and those same features I look for in others seem to condemn me to a life of prejudice and ostracization.