Second Class Citizen

Yesterday, while I was on the treadmill at the gym, some older white guy got on the treadmill next to me. When he turned on his tv, it was on Fox News. As long as I was there (for another 5-10 minutes), he hadn’t changed it. I don’t know if it happened to just be on and he wasn’t paying attention or if this is the channel he meant to watch. He had also socialized with a few other people around us. One of the men he spoke to was watching CNN. The other man that said hi to him then proceeded to go hug an older African American woman. So I’m really not sure what the guy next to me believed.

I’ll tell you what I do know though. I felt awkward. I felt like if this guy actually watches Fox News (while it was talking about the Muslim Travel Ban), he had no reason to actually want me around. It made me feel severely conscious of my skin color.

I was born here and have lived here my whole life. I’ve barely even moved out of the city I’ve lived in, let alone the state. I’ve always been proud of my dual heritage of being South Asian Indian and American. I’ve always thought it was so much cooler to live in American with its progression while also having a cool background where I get to wear gorgeous clothes, have a huge movie and music industry, and still participate in my cultural traditions.

Right now, with the way this America is, I don’t feel that. I feel like I’ve been downgraded. I feel like I have to second guess who I am. I feel like I am going to have to protect my family from all the problems that have still yet to come. I have thought of where we would go if it got that bad where we couldn’t live the life we were used to living. Would we go back to India? Another westernized country? Do you know how hard it is to even think of leaving our home?

I’ve always been more on the optimistic side of how these things resolve. Right now, it is extremely difficult to be optimistic. I can’t imagine how people can’t care for other people. I can’t imagine what it feels like to be threatened by people of another skin color or religion. Maybe it’s because being Indian means a whole variety of skin colors and religions already. To me, growing up in American already meant a blend. I don’t know it any other way. I’ve never understood it any other way.

Now, based on the fact that I’m more tan than that guy next to me on the treadmill, I get to feel like less of a person.

I really hate that.

Disneyland vs. The Rest of the Country

I walked through Disneyland with my family yesterday. I love watching different people who have come to visit from all over the world. There are all sorts of different dynamics that go on. Families, newlyweds, friends, babies. It’s a lot of fun to see everyone having a good time.

Normally, I’d take this for granted but in this country right now, I am unable to. I watch people and I wonder how they can have a hard time accepting other nationalities than their own.

Everyone was there for one reason: to have fun.

Realistically though, at least a few of the people that were visiting had to be from areas that weren’t as mixed racially. There had to be a few people that didn’t appreciate different cultures and probably saw those of us from them in a negative way.

It’s so hard for me to imagine though. In such a magical place, where my kid gets so excited seeing her favorite characters, how can there be people who hate? How can there be people who feel differently about someone else based on the color of their skin, their religion, or their language?

I know that it’s probably been going on in this country for a longer time than I’m aware of and right now, it’s coming out more than it ever has before.

But being in the happiest place on Earth makes me forget for a little while that a negative feeling such as hate even exists.

I’m Terrified Because I’m Brown

I haven’t written too much about politics because every type of article is already being written.

I did write a previous post about the tolerance for racism and hate that our president has.

I wanted to write this one based on how I’ve been feeling.

And to be honest, I’ve been scared. I’m an Asian Indian American who was born in Southern California and have lived here all my life. Not once in my 35 years on this planet have I been worried about how I was treated because of my ethnicity. I know that I’ve been lucky. I have family that has felt racism based on their skin color. I either have been oblivious or around so many different ethnicities that there hasn’t been room for that feeling of being judged.

I remember the election day and feeling like so much was riding on it. I could see all the way through it that racist people were given a pass for acting the way they wanted. I remember feeling terrified because I was worried about hate crimes occurring as soon as that election day was done.

And they did. It made me scared to leave my house. I have small kids and I don’t want to ever have to think that I’m putting their lives at risk. It’s sad to think that even with living in one of most the liberal and ethnically mixed areas in the country, I continue to worry about the type of people who don’t want those of us with a different skin color or religion here. I can’t even imagine what I would do if I didn’t live in an area like Southern California.

My family and I went out to dinner last week. I’m hyper aware of my surroundings in general but even more so than usual now. An older Caucasian man who was eating with his family kept looking over at my husband. I saw this and I couldn’t even imagine what he was thinking. I don’t believe that anything would have happened but the idea that someone didn’t want us to be there for no good reason did bother me. When the family finished, he got up and came over with his wife and told my husband that he was doing a great job handling our baby while trying to eat simultaneously and to enjoy the time because the kids grow up fast. It turns out that he was admiring our family.

It’s moments like these that remind me that as much as things have changed, nothing everything or everyone has. It reminds me that most people are still good people. It reminds me that there is still hope that this country will be a better place than it is right now.

But I’ll be honest. I’m terrified of how much we are going to have to deal with before we get to that place.

Evil Does Not Have A Race or A Religion

Evil does not have a race or a religion.

People who have the ability to hurt other people deliberately ARE evil.

But can we blame everyone of a specific background for tragedies that happened around the world in the last week?

Well, let’s see.

In 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed into power in Germany. By 1935, his message of “No Jews” is clear. By 1945, when World War 2 ended, over 5.5 million Jewish people had been executed.

In 1995, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols attacked a federal building in Oklahoma City because they didn’t like the way the federal government handled Waco and Ruby Ridge.

In 2002, in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, attacks were organized against the Muslim population because the Hindu people believed that they had attacked a train with Hindus returning from a pilgrimage. An independent investigation found the cause of the fire to be accidental but yet, the attacks still took place. Regardless of the instigation, many Indian Hindus and Indian Muslims died.

In 2012, James Holmes killed 12 and injured 58 in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.

In 2012, Wade Michael Page killed 6 and injured 3 in a gurudwara (Sikh temple).

In 2012, Adam Lanza killed 27 and injured 1 in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut.

in 2014, a UN Commission found secret prison camps in North Korea with some of the worst violence in the world.

In 2015, Dylann Storm Roof killed 9 in Charleston, South Carolina.

In 2015, a journalist and four women were executed by cartels in Mexico City.

In 2015, the amount of violence in Ukraine between rebels and the government has been consistent, leaving thousands of Ukranians dead.

I could keep on giving examples that go so far back in history but the point is that evil people are evil everywhere. They aren’t defined by a race or a religion. They aren’t defined by anything except that they had the ability to hurt other people.

With regards to the attacks that happened this past week, I do believe that those who planned and carried out the attacks were evil. But I will not accept that every Muslim person or every Syrian person or whatever nationality one might be is evil.

The only way this world wins against evil is by bonding together. If we have suffered from an injustice against us, how can we cause injustice to someone else? Tolerance and support are two of the most important things we can provide to others.

So when you see someone who might be of the same religion or race that one of the attackers was, remember that they are suffering as much as we are. They have to deal with being stigmatized because they are of the same background. They had no choice in the matter as well.

Let’s find a way to fix the evil in this world. We aren’t Hindus versus Muslims versus Christians versus Catholics. We are the good of humanity versus the evil of humanity. We want peace and love. We want to raise our children in a place where they don’t have to worry about their ethnicity or religion as being something they have to hide.

We want to live in a world without evil.

 

 

 

 

A Tale of A Turban

I recently have taken a part in a movement called 1000 Speak For Compassion. It involves flooding the blogging community with stories of compassion. I think it’s important that we continue to see how compassion helps us rise past the struggles and keeps us moving in a positive direction.

This month’s theme is writing about Building From Bullying. I was lucky enough to not have to ever really deal with bullying but I have heard stories about what my husband went through as a child. I wanted to share one.

My husband moved to the US from Punjab in 1994. As a Sikh boy, he wore a turban. Now, we hear of stories today where children (and adults) who wear turbans are being bullied and harassed. And that’s today when we have so much access to information and knowledge to know that wearing a turban is just a part of their religion and culture. We know that wearing a turban shouldn’t have a negative connotation to it. And yet, as we see through social media and the news, it often still does.

So, in 1994, when we did not have this much access to information, of course, my husband was bullied for wearing a turban. He was the only Sikh male out of the 3 Indian people attending his school. The only reference that people had to Indian people was Apu from The Simpsons.

He would have to deal with name-calling with names such as “Towel Head” and “Diaper Head”. He would be asked if he rubbed his head, would a genie come out of it (he thought this point was pretty cool but was disappointed when it didn’t work)?

Kids would follow him around and talk to him in the “Apu” accent. They would tell him to go back where he came from. There was one kid in his Physical Education class that would sit behind him and constantly try to take off his turban from the bottom. This kid would steal his clothes from his gym locker and block him from going somewhere.

The teacher would notice and apologize but it didn’t always stop the harassment.

And it’s not that my husband wouldn’t want to defend himself. He thought about punching the kid that was bothering him. In the end, it wasn’t worth it to him because he reminded himself that his end goal was getting an education. His parents had worked really hard to move to America from India for him to get a good education and have success in life. Getting into a fight would only be a distraction.

It got so bad that when lunch periods happened, he decided he would rather go stand in a quiet, empty area of the school for 30 minutes rather than be in the cafeteria with the other kids. It turned out that this empty quiet area existed because there was a computer lab in that hallway. And even though my husband wasn’t a part of that particular class, the teacher let him come in during his lunch period and play around on the computers.

My husband used the opportunities and developed his interest in computers. Today, he is a software engineer with his own successful business.

He didn’t let the bullying become bigger than he was. He was also lucky that the bullying wasn’t to the point of being seriously physically and emotionally abused.

Eventually, the bullying did stop. Once the children realized that he was smart and they needed his help, they stopped being disrespectful based on his looks. Even the kid that would bother him in his physical education class came to him for help with a computer project.

The compassion that the computer teacher showed him by letting him just be a part of the computer lab helped drive him on his path to success. During those 30 minutes each day, he found something that he really loved to do. It kept his focus on the good and kept him moving towards his ultimate goal.

We can only hope that others who face bullies today know how to focus inward and find something that gives them confidence. We hope that they have the courage to move past it and have the support to thrive beyond the bullies. We hope that there is someone to show them compassion when they need it.

My Child Is 3 Different Religions. Is That Even Possible?

Religion has been a hot topic in the world, well, pretty much since the beginning of man. Just recently, I talked to someone who was having trouble with her parents because she was dating someone of a different religion. I wanted to talk about this a little bit.

Traditionally, in Indian culture, a child takes his or her father’s religion as their own. Of course, this probably wasn’t an issue when everyone was still marrying inside their own religion. But now, in today’s world, we have a lot more mixed marriages. So how do you raise your child?

My father is Hindu and my mother is Jain. I know these aren’t religions that are extremely different from each other but they aren’t the same religion either. I knew that, according to tradition, I was considered Hindu. But I’ve always told people that I was half Hindu and half Jain. I’ve always considered being Jain a part of who I am even though I don’t practice either religion too strictly. I grew up in a household where my mom wasn’t really religious and my dad was. The beauty of my dad’s religious beliefs though is that he didn’t discriminate by religion. To him, God is God however and wherever you choose to practice that belief. He will just as easily go sit in a church, a gurudwara (Sikh temple), a mosque, as he will any mandir (Hindu temple). He actually has copies of and has read all of the religious books corresponding with each religion.

When we were growing up, my parents put us in a Christian elementary school and then a Catholic high school. They wanted us in private school and the only ones around us were religion-based. Their ultimate goal was for us to get a good education and, as long as we were getting that, they were fine with us learning about other religions in the process.

My husband is Sikh. The Sikh marriage ceremony differs from the Hindu one. I have seen a lot of people choose do two weddings, one in their religion and one in their spouse’s religion. While this works for some people, I could not imagine getting ready twice and sitting through two wedding ceremonies. So we decided to do the one that worked for us. My whole family loved the Sikh ceremony. It’s one of the most peaceful, beautiful ceremonies I’ve ever seen. And I have no regrets about celebrating our love and commitment that way because regardless of which religion we celebrated in, we meant those promises to each other.

Now we have a child who is half Sikh, 1/4 Hindu, and 1/4 Jain. So now what? So far, we have taken her to the gurudwara to get a blessing and soon, we will be taking her to a mandir as well. Does it matter than she is this mix of religions? How does it affect my child to grow up in a world where there are people fighting and using religion as an excuse to do so?

It doesn’t matter to us what religion she chooses to define her (if she even chooses one and not all three) as long as she respects the good values they all teach. We want to teach her to be proud of who she is and understand her culture (her Punjabi, Gujarati, and American background). In the end, we want to teach her how to be a good person. That’s all that matters.

Love Who We Want

Yesterday, I wrote about a teacher who was fired from my Catholic high school for marrying his partner of 10 years. 

Today, I want to hit a little bit closer to home with my culture regarding a similar issue. How free are we, as Indians, to love who we want? Is it possible to be with or even marry the person we want if they don’t fit into what our culture dictates is right for us? How much pressure do we even put on ourselves to fit into what we think is right? 

I’ve learned the hard way that what is right on paper isn’t what is right for me. But I had to go through a pretty big self-inflicted struggle to understand this. 

Even if we never hear anything from our parents or family about who we should end up marrying, there is this idea that we should end up with someone who is the same ethnicity and religion as we are. They should be equally matched in every way: looks, education, financially. And even if the pressure isn’t directly put onto us by someone else, we put that same pressure on ourselves. We want the approval of our community. And to get that approval, we have to fit into the mold that was shaped out for us and has been shaped out for us for decades or maybe even centuries. 

So what happens when we fall in love with someone outside of this mold? What happens when we realize that a relationship goes past the education and the looks and the families getting along? What happens when we realize that there is so many other aspects to consider that have nothing to do with what we have been taught? 

I have seen it go both ways. I have seen couples split up because one or the other isn’t approved by their family. Instead of fighting for their love, they choose their family and sacrifice their relationship. I have seen couples stay together and try to make their families understand their relationship.

So it’s a choice. It’s always a choice. Unfortunately, we can’t control the idea of what the perfect relationship looks like. But we can control how we react to the opinions of our relationship. There are still going to be times when the world won’t agree with a relationship. Is it worth it to fight for it? Or is it something that should be given up because it’s not “right”?

Should we love who we want? Or should we love who the world says we should?