“I am not my race”

Project Description:

I remember the day I realized that I was indian/brown/colored. I remember being disappointed.

I am insecure about the fact that no matter how much I try to shake it, some part of me believes that I would be better if I was white. That if I act American and reject my roots, that I will be more desirable. It seems that this invisible hierarchy is all around me, facelessly whispering its expectations in my ears. I am often told I look pretty when I artificially straighten my hair, but rarely when I wear the curls that define my culture. I get confused stares when I wear the garb of my ancestors, but fit right in when I attempt to assimilate.

Assimilate. It seems that all that I have done, ever since I can remember, is try to assimilate. When I was younger, it felt cool to reject the dialect, food, clothing, and dance of my culture so that I could seem like an American first, Indian second. My attempts at assimilation even caused me to perpetuate the hierarchy. I began to disassociate myself with those who were brave enough to be who they actually were- Indian-American and proud.

This mentality continues to affect my everyday actions. I react to others as if they see my ‘brown’ first, as if they respond to me based on my lack of worth because of my color. The personality that I have created for myself: loud, funny, aggressive, overbearing… seems to all stem from an attempt to hide what I somehow believe is a damning trait that I wear on my skin. It feels like I am constantly fighting to rewrite my first impression so that it does not include the color of my skin, the curls in my hair, the thickness in my eyebrows, and the heritage that I was trained to shake.

I know, or I hope I know, that society does not believe that white is greater than brown, but for now I am working through the fact that my mind puts a filter over every one of my actions and interactions that says that the races are unequal.