White people are not used to being on the sidelines.
They are not used to being on the outside of spaces, ideas, and movements. When narratives – creating them, shaping them, consuming them – have historically been dominated by white people, it is difficult to imagine one where white people are entirely exempt. It is not difficult, however, to imagine a person of colour on the sidelines; often, we are simply teetering idly by as white counterparts dominate, and sometimes, we are never present at all.
Recently, the rise in spaces that are marketed as for and by people of colour have led to white people wondering why they can’t get involved too. Claims of ‘reverse racism’ are thrown around haplessly with reluctance to recall that for generations, people of colour have been exempt from the conversation. Through spaces like GirlDreamer, we are simply sparking our own.
The importance of spaces which bring together people of colour, particularly those of South Asian backgrounds, tie into the fact that there are certain experiences that are informed by our cultural circles that people outside of these circles (i.e. white people) simply cannot comprehend. Even the idea of owning an experience (positive or negative) that is beyond a white person’s understanding challenges colonial thinking that subconsciously remains prevalent.
One such experience is the dichotomy between stagnant cultural and environmental factors which surround young Asians, especially girls, and the rapidity of the wider world. The ghettoised structure of immigrant communities means that many Asians are settled into geographical communities with large Asian populations, low higher education prospects, and high cultural emphasis. Many GirlDreamers come from backgrounds like this. So do I. The dormant nature of these community settings contrast greatly from the booming, fast-moving hustle of the wider world; technological innovation and human interaction means that two days are quite literally never the same. The liminal state that is being a part of both these worlds, but not quite belonging in either is not a state the majority of white people understand. It is as simple as an unspoken experience that many young Asians share, but do not discuss.
Because of this liminal state, our communities have a materialism problem. Activities like watching Youtubers travelling around the world on a Macbook is easier than becoming a Youtuber who travels the world. Owning items featured in Zoella’s most recent ‘favourites’ video is more feasible than becoming someone like Zoella. It’s about connectivity – owning items that connect you to what’s iconic is far more attainable than becoming an icon. When you’re sitting in a terraced house in Alum Rock, getting a pair of Huaraches worn by your favourite artist is much more probable than their million-dollar record deal. It’s easier to aspire to join the cultural revolution than to actually be part of it.
Questions rise from this, usually asked by white people: why don’t young Asians just try? Why don’t they work for the central London flat instead of settling for the once-worn pair of Vans? Again, the nuances of certain situations are just simply not understood by those outside of the circles experiencing them. It’s not an issue that can simply be expressed in words and figures, and solved with the same. Deep-rooted cultural and institutional obstacles come into play, and it’s hard to understand that for some people, it’s not just freedom they are looking for, but the freedom to dream. We are so used to the lack of presence of ourselves in large, influential spaces that it’s become almost impossible to imagine ourselves in them. GirlDreamer is giving back girls of colour this freedom to dream.
This blog was written by a very talented young girl who is a definite GirlDreamer! At just 16, she is full of thoughts, ideas and ambition and turned a conversation we had with her into this mega blog post!