Srivastava = Shree-vas-ta-va
Respect. That’s all any of us want. Sure there is love, companionship, dogs and chocolate. But, respect is different from those things. It allows one to walk down the street without getting sexually harassed, threatened, and/or killed. Respect gives one confidence, joy, and happiness. Actually, fuck that. I think we all want to avoid being disrespected. When disrespected, we face our greatest obstacles. Usually, this type of disrespect comes from deeply rooted prejudice.
You think I would be used to the prejudice. Right? I write about it constantly and talk about my experiences with it. So, I must be immune to it. Want me to drop a truth bomb? Stop reading now if you don’t.
The truth: I am not use to it at all! It chips away at my soul, piece by piece. Then, I spend hours fixing my poor broken soul. If you’re a woman, person of color, and/or a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, then you’ve been a victim of microaggressions. Microaggressions aren’t overt, rather they are daily verbal invalidations, whether intentional or not, that communicate hostile or negative insults toward a certain person. They’re not the classic form of prejudice that people think of. It’s not racial slurs, jokes about a woman’s gender, or using terms like “gay” and “trans” as insults. No, microaggressions are way worse! Nothing about you is off limits: your name, cultural identity, intellect, body piercing, tattoos, hair style, etc. The worst part: they’re so covert that they’ve become acceptable! (Oh, and woke liberals…you can be microaggressors too. Don’t act like this doesn’t apply to you.)
When victim to such behavior, you find yourself day-dreaming about different ways you could handle the situation or what you should have said when the microaggression occur. You can get all sassy or sarcastic with your imaginary responses. Or, you get full-on violent. But, you know that will only make it worse. Then, you think about the retaliation standing up for yourself could have not only you but the others around you. Of course, microaggressers will claim it’s your fault for getting offended. So, they won’t have to deal with their own behavior.
Growing up, I always had to teach people how to spell and say my last name. It’s not a hard name to say, it’s just got a lot of letters that overwhelm the average Anglo-Saxon person. I hated correcting people on my name. It took so much time and energy. Occasionally, I let people butcher it so I could move on with my day. But, with people I interact with on a daily basis, I ask them to say my correctly.
When I encountered someone who couldn’t say my name, I was force to relive prejudice I’d faced my whole life. This person constantly asked how to say my last name. I told this person twice how to say it then told the person that its pronounced the way it’s spelled. I even took the time to reach out when this person requested my help with my last name. Eventually, the person butchered my name so badly by adding letters that weren’t there. When I stated those letters weren’t in the name, the person replied, “well, it’s easier for me to say it that way.”
“I don’t know what to tell you,” I said, “my name is my name.” I then left with my head held high. (So, this person went out of his/her way to make me feel small.) I wasn’t a confident, competent, intelligent woman of color in that moment. Instead, I was reduced to nothing but a “foreign woman of color” in white dominant field. My dad tells me that no one can take away my education, my degrees, or my compassion. But, my dad failed to tell me that people can reduce to pure nothingness when they completely disregard those things.
I can’t believe I have to write this, but…no one asks to be discriminated against! Minority groups don’t choose to be non cis gender heterosexual white men. We simply are born the way we are born. Or, born with the feelings we have. The consequences of our identity is determined before we are even conceived. There is no where in America I can go to not be discriminated against. Because I am a woman, I’ll face discrimination. Because I am a person of color, I’ll face discrimination. Because I am Hindu, I’ll face discrimination. Because I am a combination of all those, I will be discriminated against. However, I am forced to deal with that. I didn’t ask for this, I was born into it. In all honesty, I’m mad at myself that I let microaggressions happen to me. But, I can’t predict how someone is going act. Many times, I try to be polite and give them an opportunity to be better. Unfortunately, that just gives that person more room to microaggress me. Yet, I’m victim-blaming myself. (Ugh. Why did I take the time to try. I should have just let her figure it on her own.) Objectively, I know it’s not my fault. Yet, for some reason, it does feel like my fault.
I’m like the Hulk, I’m always angry. I have to turn that emotion into productive energy or I’ll be destroyed by it. So, I worked very hard in life to get my degrees and law license. With these in my back pocket, I could create change. Make the world a better place. Advocate for those who needed help. But, it doesn’t matter if I have the same or higher degrees, I will face microaggressions solely due to my identity. And, these halt any progress I wish to make.
When I was kid, I prayed that I married a man (preferably a celebrity) with an easy last name – one where the Anglo-Saxons could easily say. As an adult, I refuse to change my last name regardless of my marital status. I fucking love my name! When people call Ms. Srivastava, I feel respected. Yet, when people purposely try to change Ms. Srivastava to something more convenient for them, I feel disrespected.
If you ever butchered someone’s name intentionally or negligently, apologize to that person immediately. Don’t justify it. Don’t say what your preference is or how you think it should be said. Because, it doesn’t matter what’s easier for you to say. All that matters is the person who owns the name; whose grown up with that name; her family name that she takes pride in; a name her clients will proudly say, “that’s my attorney, Ms. Srivastava, and she fought real fucking hard for me.”
If you apologize, then say you will keep trying. At least that person will know that you mean no disrespect.
I hate 2020. Stay tuned. We are in this together now.