Poem: Brown Girls Like Me

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Linda Cheriyan--born in India.


Brown girls like me
We grow up knowing we are a financial burden
Or are destined to destroy the family’s name
So the training starts from the day
the doctors announce "it's a girl" in the delivery room
Instead of celebrating with sweets
and inviting the family over for a party as the traditions for birth,
The parents will clench their hearts
for the burden they have created within their own rooms.

Brown girls like me are raised with the idea
that we are a guest within our own homes
one-day we have to be married off
As my husbands home will become my home
And his name will become my name
I will no longer be my own person but be a shadow to him
I knew this when I was 5
where I should've been focusing on playing with kids my age
and learning to write my alphabets more thoroughly.
We grow up too fast
Without a real childhood
gender roles that followed us at every corner
Our parents make our own homes a living hell
Where we begin to think that maybe getting married
will get me out of this house
where I can finally be free.
But not thinking about the abuse
that will follow from a man I don't know
but I agreed to marry for freedom
Where my family won’t understand if he rapes me
cause marital rape isn’t a thing in their eyes
we are a property of our husband.
Our entire life we don't know what freedom is
Prisoners within our own home
and then tied to man when we are married
until death does me apart.

Brown girls like me are supposed to know how to cook
Not to keep ourselves alive
But to make sure our husband gets fed.
At every family function
The aunties asked if I learned how to cook
And the answer would always be
but then questions that followed became
“But how will you ever cook for your husband?”
“How will you ever make him happy?”
and “it is so important for women to learn how to cook”
I was 16.
I was 18 when my brown sisters were forced into marriages
without being able to sit in a college classrooms.
They were younger than me or my age.
I heard the stories where they are not happy
and wanted to die
Cause death always seemed better.

Brown girl like me are supposed to sit politely
Our words are supposed to be gentle
Never fierce
Maybe that's the reason why my father felt intimidated when my mother raised her voice
So he beat her
Until her bones cracked

Every time
I did or do something that is not "woman like"
My mom brings up feminism
And how feminism taught me to rebel.
No Amma, Feminism gave me the voice
I couldn't find for years.

Brown girls like me aren't supposed to be outspoken
We aren't supposed to speak out against rape
We aren't supposed to speak about our emotions
We aren't supposed to speak about our oppression
We aren’t supposed to have the raging fire within us
that we have held back for ages.
But we are supposed to internalize these feelings
And be the great wife we are training to be.

For my brown girls who’s voices are taken away
There will be light one day
For my brown girls who have been killed because you did use your voice
I will carry out the light in your name

Brown girls we cant be quiet now
Our time is just starting.

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