Growing up as a first-generation immigrant in America, the struggles of finding where your true identity lies are ever-present. Not American enough to fit in with your peers at school, and too American to fit in with your counterparts back home, this hurdle of finding the balance between the two takes time to overcome.
Personally speaking, growing up in a not so diverse area led me to hide my identity but as the years passed, I was encouraged to acknowledge my rich Pakistani culture. In doing so, I realized that I fit with neither side; instead, I exist in my own little cohort alongside others like me who face this constant identity crisis. While finding this balance between hiding your identity versus embracing it takes time, I have understood that leaning too far on the scale and blindly embracing your heritage is just as damaging to one’s self-identity as wrongfully dismissing it is.
As someone who struggled to align with either side throughout my childhood, I suddenly developed this newfound love for my home country, which emboldened my perception of where I was from. Whether it be because I felt like an outcast trying to be an American or because I finally wanted to call a place home, I became engrossed in incorporating my heritage as a more relevant part of who I was. Though this may have made the once blurry image of my self-identity clearer, I have found that this sudden love results in a forceful sense of pride for one’s country.
Bottom line is that first-generation immigrants that grew up in the western world will never understand life back home. Occasional visits and hearing about what is going on there in the news paint a distorted picture, one that hides the day to day struggles of individuals there while seeming like a complete picture to someone in the first world. Understanding where you are from and appreciating your home country is one thing, but developing this boastful sense of pride that your homeland is better than that of others is damaging as it refuses to acknowledge the problems that exist in your country.
Being from Pakistan, a South Asian country, I have first-hand experienced how this toxic sense of pride causes unjust bragging for a country. Individuals, who have merely visited their home countries, argue with others about how Pakistan is better than other countries in South Asia, depicting it as this safe haven for all minorities in the midst of the political and ethical turmoil that persists in the region of South Asia.
Comparing countries that are equally oppressive and violent to women as citizens of the western world puts a block in the road for promoting sectional feminism. Women are held back in South Asia as patriarchal views and social norms continue to push the harsh gender inequalities. This should be acknowledged alongside the love individuals have for this region.
Having inclusive and intersectional feminism to me means being aware of these social challenges before the positive attributes of Pakistan. While I understand the importance of knowing where I came from and being proud of it, acknowledging these issues is one less hurdle on the road to finding my true identity.
Those who struggled with being too American throughout childhood may feel this push to all of a sudden embrace their home country and the good that can be seen of it from the western world. Tipping the scale too harsh to your immigrant side, however, will not help in finding yourself any more than it did when it was tipped to the American side in your childhood.
I know the feeling of not being completely accepted by my peers here in the US, which urged me to place my sense of pride in Pakistan. Not to say that I misplaced my pride or that I made a mistake in learning about my heritage, but understanding the harsh realities of women and minorities in Pakistan better shaped by feminism and allowed me to more clearly see my identity. While I still struggle to align my identity with either America or Pakistan, I remember first and foremost that I am a Pakistani-American female. Being born in a first-world country gives me a privilege that is unmatched and this does not give me or others the right to romanticize any country that oppresses women. I can still love where I am from, but continuing to raise awareness about the social issues that limit women in Pakistan is something I feel obligated to do.