As an Indian girl being born in the Caribbean, it has always been difficult for me to completely embrace myself and my culture. For as long as I can remember, I had always disliked being associated with the race “Indian”, not because I was ashamed of my ethnicity, but because of the stereotypes and minor racism that followed along with it.
Throughout different aspects of my life, I’ve seen my Indian classmates get made fun of, or just downgraded because of stereotypical beliefs. Racism confronts people of color daily wherever they go, including the classroom. Upon the most common examples would include, referring to Indians with spiteful words like stinky, hairy, unclean, and sometimes even monkey. Many people assume that just because you’re Indian you aren’t attractive, which if I do say so myself, is absolutely false. I have personally heard people say, “Ew, I would never like him/her, they’re Indian”, which is exceptionally damaging to our self esteem and confidence. Other than just our physical appearance, our personality and intelligence are also judged and set beforehand. I cannot recall the amount of times someone has told me, “You’re supposed to know this, you’re Indian.”, after telling them that I didn't know the answer to a particular question. Or the amount of times I have been excluded from events, discussions, and groups simply because of the fact that I am not “cool enough” as I am Indian.
I have experienced isolation because of my race, and over the years it has led me to hate being Indian. I would love wearing cultural outfits, but not like being seen wearing it by anyone non-Indian. I would love the food, but would act like I didn’t eat it in front of my friends. I had a deep interest for Indian classical dancing, but would never perform it in front of a multi-racial crowd. My anxiety would sky-rocket if I saw that I missed a spot while shaving because I didn't want someone to point it out. I took every opportunity I got to make myself appear “less Indian”. Almost my entire life, up until I was 13, I was running away from who I truly am.
Up to this day, I still get a little insecure, but now I am proud of being an Indian. “What changed my mindset?”, you may ask. Social media, that’s my answer.
It all happened when I started noticing people of different backgrounds posting and taking more cultural interest in Indian events. I clearly remember watching a video where two boys of the African descent duetted a video of two Indian girls dancing. The boys attempted to perform an Indian dance, and they were quite successful to say the least. But that’s not what caught my attention, their caption did. It stated, “ What a beautiful culture with beautiful people.” Later on I saw more and more people duetting the video going on about how they love the dance and how fun it is. Apart from that, I saw many influencers trying on traditional Indian dresses and rocking it. Needless to say, I did a little bit of self reflection. I thought to myself, “If everyone can express themselves, why can’t I ?”
Coincidentally, my school also started teaching Indian dance as one of the mandatory subjects for the first year. My school also celebrated and explained one of the most famous Indian festivals, Diwali. Naturally I started feeling more comfortable being Indian. I didn’t feel like my race limited who I talked to, or what my personality was like. I started feeling pretty in my own skin, and that little boost in confidence allowed me to talk to my peers without being scared of rejection. Although I still face minor racism at times, school became a lot easier for me, I talked and communicated with everyone, and my best friends today are all from different cultural backgrounds.
So to anyone,and everyone including myself, let this be a reminder that just small acts of politeness, both in real life and online, can make a huge difference in someone’s life. And to those who still suffer from showing or embracing who you are, just keep in mind that you ARE perfect and accepted in community!! Don’t let your fears or perception of things limit what you can do, because for all you know your act of bravery can inspire so many people!