Is identity meant to be polarized, or is it a multitude of different layers harnessed from society? Supna Zaidi emphasizes on the importance of using common sense and instincts to progress through life. This story was recorded in partnership with MALA and StoryCorps.
“Hi my name is Supna Zaidi. This interview comes at a time where I am very much at the height of trying to figure out who I am. And identity is a very conscious question that I’ve been mulling over the last few months, last few years. As you mentioned, it is very layered. When you watch the news today and look in the mirror, the answer should be so obvious. It’s because I’m Pakistani. It’s because I’m Muslim. It’s because I’m a woman. It’s because I’m an immigrant. But we often forget that while in the media, they need to label and characterize people for the ease of sound bites and punditry, we forget that regardless of where we’re located, there are individuals involved and regardless of what the labels are that we give them, they’re unique, one by one and for me, that frustration, the absence of that conversation begins with my father who was a journalist in Pakistan.
And he was born into a religious Shia family at the time the education system was heavily influenced by British colonialism. But ironically, with his generation, they somehow managed to be or rather have pride in being Muslim, pride in being what he would say Hindustani rather than Indian or Pakistan. And they still, or he specifically, still loved Shakespeare and Elvis from the 50’s and American culture. He actually had a pair of blue suede shoes. But he also loved the culture he was raised in. I don’t know how much we are what we are inherently because of gender, but today at least in 2015 we’re still socialized on different paths. And women are still raised to be nurtured and care more about others more than themselves. And through that lens, yes if there were more female leaders, maybe that lens would have a useful place.
Don’t forget your common sense and your own instincts. Don’t believe something because it is coming from a place of either religious authority or secular authority, or any “fill in the blank” external authority. There is common sense and there is your own experience and how your experience makes you feel. If someone says or does something that hurts you, the reverse is true also. You say and do xyz, it’s going to hurt another. Someone says or does something that supports you, makes you feel good, empowers you, in turn that same behavior words or actions are true from you. Opportunities are what you make of them, no one will give them to you. Revolutions were not made whining and asking and demanding for things.
There’s respect, there’s nonviolence, there are paths to expressing frustrations. There are respectful ways to do it. There are violent ways to do it, which are actually worsen and exacerbate your situation. There is a community to always go to. There are people who do not have to be of your background who care about you. You have to seek them out. Nobody knows what goes on with you or what you feel inside or what tortures you. Whether you’re a teenage kid or a 50 year old man who still isn’t over something that happened to him. His experiences are real. And I believe humans care about humans and it doesn’t matter what we look like on the outside. But you have to reach out and you have to have faith.”