Being “Brown” in America

I wrote this because I’ve been feeling so many emotions with the current events going on in our country. And writing is my outlet. And I am scared to share these thoughts. But I hope it sheds some light to someone else on being a person of color in America and how small interactions can be hurtful.

Being “Brown” in America

Being an excited eight year old starting at a new elementary school
To only be greeted by a new classmate
Saying that her parents said not to speak to you
Because you are dark
And not telling anyone
Because you don’t understand what you did wrong
But later not feeling surprised when a brown kid was murdered in this same town
The day after Trump was elected

Being a human having a stressful day
And then getting into an Uber
To have the driver exclaim,
“Oh, you’re Indian. We are listening to Indian music then.”
To which I respond,
“I don’t enjoy this music.”
To which he says,
“Well you’re Indian and you should so we are listening to it.”

Being an adult and having the color of your skin fetishized
So that boys are asking if they can “ride your magic carpet”
Or calling you Jasmine
Or saying they have always wanted to date an “exotic chick”
And feeling anger that you are not even sure how to process

Meeting a boyfriend’s parent for the first time
And being greeted in an Indian accent
And feeling so taken aback that you laugh
Even though every bit of you
Feels at odds

Meeting a friend’s parents who are Indian immigrants
And they keep asking why I cannot speak any Indian languages
And bluntly then saying my parents failed
And having most other Indian Americans I meet
Repeat the same harsh declaration
Until I feel neither dutiful enough to be considered Indian
Nor white enough to blend into America

Being asked constantly “where are you from?”
And having them not be satisfied with you stating your hometown
Or your current city of residence
Being pressed
Being grilled
By complete strangers
Until you comply with sharing your ethnic origins
And feeling like your white friend standing next to you
Never gets asked these same questions

Being at a music festival
To be stopped by a stranger
Who begins to make kind small talk
To then just loudly declare
“The people from your country are just so beautiful.”
And to abruptly walk away laughing.

But my country is America, isn’t it?
I was born here.

Writing these words
And feeling like I shouldn’t
Because so many people before
Have told me to just get over it
And that my dissent
Is negative

Breaking Bread in the Trump Era

These last few weeks, I have been feeling frustrated, angry, scared, and heartbroken.  Growing up in highly conservative communities, I have always had several friends who had differing political viewpoints than my own.  And yet, I have been struggling to feel any sort of compassion or warmth towards people on the opposing side and that hasn’t felt right to me.  I want to be accepting; I want to be open; I want to be inclusive.  This past weekend brought me back to that reality.

In the name of Valentine’s Day, my boyfriend, Torrey, and I headed to a cozy cabin in the Redwoods.  When we arrived at the check-in office, I started chatting away with Martin, one of the owners of the property.  Within the next few hours of our stay, different circumstances lead us back to the office and we were hitting it off with Martin.  Torrey and I were later grilling outside our cabin and Martin came over with a bottle of Jameson.  We hung out, sharing our stories and different philosophies and in those few hours, we became genuine friends. 

Later that night, Martin knocked on our door inviting us over for quesadillas and to listen to him play the drums.  While Martin and I walked over to his house, he turned to me and said he had two things to share that I wouldn’t like.    

“The first is I smoke cigarettes.  And the second is I voted for Trump.”

The strangest thing happened to me in that moment: I didn’t actually care.  And that felt so good.  I have been feeling so fearful and divided from Trump supporters and it felt good to just not give a shit about who someone voted for.  

I don’t know why Martin voted for Trump.  I don’t know how Martin feels about our current political climate.  And I don’t know if he agrees with what Trump has done these past few weeks.  But I do know that in the short time we grew to know each other, he was genuinely kind and respectful.  

This past election revealed that our country is divided…  How are we going to resolve that?  I don’t have a scientific solution to share with you and to me, there isn’t one.  I believe our individual kind actions towards each other can lead to a collective unified nation.  I believe that we are not powerful as a nation when we are broken internally and individually.  None of this may be groundbreaking to you.  But hopefully in the midst of how you’re feeling, it’s a reminder to stay open and accepting regardless of what we face in these upcoming years.