Brown, Proud, and Loud
As a queer brown person employed as a tutor at uni, I find myself submerged in a Western space that does not reflect the complexities of being authentic to my identity. Pacific and sometimes Samoan people view me as fa’afafine (gender fluid—androphilic male). To the haters who judge me based on how I speak and walk, I’m a faggot. To my loved ones and aiga, I am a loving brother, son, cousin, and uncle.
Despite labels like an abomination in the Bible’s eyes, a feminine male for those that tried to unpack my identity, a sis to my queer community, a bro to certain friends who see me in that way, through a politically correct term in the Samoan language viewing me as tauatāne (Homosexual—brave men), and how I view myself as a child of God—however, with all the complexities aside, I am human first and foremost.
Being B.P.L. (brown, proud, and loud)—when I say that, I say that from lived experiences of subtle and even blatant racism within institutions, workplaces, and even on the internet—B.P.L. is the way to go. Not all the time, but the values it perpetuates is celebratory despite the struggles we go through from the dominant culture. Dominant culture is the majority that fits that race category, that within a historic lens had its massive shares in colonising the Pacific and the world, but before I go on…
I just want to preface that I’m not here to bash anyone’s race. It’s more so to give people a reflective moment of truth and honest critique. An allyship of privilege looks like ‘passing the mic’ or opportunities to those who are oppressed and less visible in society.
There are many stereotypes that are enforced and ingrained in our biases for being brown. In my view, the current discussion of ‘unconscious bias’ in regards to race, to put it bluntly, is racist. Imagine being like the only brown person in the room. Imagine being unintentionally, or even intentionally, iced out and excluded from others. Why does this occur? It’s down to cultural reasons like conforming to the ‘humble Pacific person complex’. The humble Pacific person complex is observing and not voicing how you really feel because it’ll cause a disdain of some sort. Furthermore, when you speak out passionately, or just go against the grain, it’s seen as aggressive, ghetto, rude, or as ‘hood rat behaviour’. Although there is a huge population of Pasifika individuals in Tāmaki Makaurau, I don’t see enough of my brown brothers and sisters represented in ‘high’ spaces. That is isolating and scary.
Stepping into authenticity and being unapologetically brown is vital. It ain’t easy because if it was, everyone would do it with grace. However, it takes another ‘g’ word, which is grit, to disrupt, decolonise, and be present in the space where ultimately growth will occur.
Growth is occurring and it might be slow, but it is indeed steady and happening. From the Dawn Raids that severely affected our Pasifika peoples and Pacific leaders in ‘high’ spaces voting against the same-sex Bill, to a change where now we have a Dawn Raids apology from the Labour government as they take some form of accountability and some Pacific leaders changing their mind about Rainbow issues and stopping conversion therapy altogether. When I speak about authenticity, I am referring to being true to who you are—whether you are a part of the Rainbow community, or simply pretending to be someone you’re not. Authenticity is being faithful to who you really are.
Being brown in my context is being Pasifika—which is another shade, another community where the intersections of being authentic and brown create nuances that some people will never understand. But one thing people should note is that within all the complexities of people trying to ‘figure me out’—at the end of the day I am, WE are, all human first and foremost.