To Be A “Color” in the “Land Of The Free”

Being a brown skinned girl, life is not as simple as many people of lighter descent make it out to be. Especially if you happen to be intermixed with another culture (which I am, and quite proud of), then life just becomes a few more stages of difficult.

“You’re so exotic!” “You’re culture is just so colorful!”

Yes, we do have a variety of traditions that people on the outside will find enticing, but there are some others who find this as a threat because it is not assimilated into the standard norm of what it means to be an “American.”

I speak as a South Asian and from the experiences of my own, along with my fellow comrades. I love my culture and what it has to offer, I love the color of my ivory skin, and the deep blacks of my hair and eyes, I love the various traditions of my culture such as Onam and eating a proper sadhya off of a banana leaf. These are cultural necessities, and thus, sets me apart from the typical “American.”

The flip side to all of this means that I am forced to participate and consume an economy that bastardizes the most sacred parts of my cultural existence. I am used to both the fetishzation and debasement of my religious heritage (this shall be a later post). The history of my culture simply remains an “elective” in schools, never the main subject of an academic conversation, and if so- it will be spoken in the most derogatory of ways.

The best example of this is when I walk through the airport; I dread what’s to come next. The required, but tedious security check. Do not get me wrong, I understand that this is a must needed process for our national security, but for people of a different nationality, like myself, this could be another reason for those in power to judge us, and that’s solely based on our appearance. If those who do not fit the typical “American stereotype” pass through the TSA’s security gates, they may probably be gifted with the extra “security measures” for they believe to, “protect the nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce.”  Yes, this in indeed a frustrating process, especially those of us who seem to have a different demographic (particularly those of brown skin, or to be more specific- look like they have a resemblance to terrorist culture of some sort).

Surveillance on minorities is a topic that does not seemed to be brought into the light enough, if at all for the matter. As of late however, it seems that those whom are considered to be the “minority” are a hot topic in the political debates, primarily because of the irrational fear that is spread amongst those who are not “minority.” Not only that, it seems those of color that have settled in the “Land of the Free,” have grown accustomed to this scrutiny. Ever since the 9/11 attacks, I recall my parents would try to shelter me from places and people who may look at us with judgement. My mother and myself would get the better ends of the spectrum of this scrutiny as we are of lighter skin, but unfortunately for my father and brother; there are times where whenever we go to a place with security that they would be watched more closely, merely because they happen to be a few shades darker.

We see this happen around us on a constant basis, but because it’s so common, society and its people tend to overlook these measures and just take it as another thing in life we have to go through. But, do those of lighter skin descent- Caucasian descent get this same treatment? I think not. When I look to our present leaders, particularly those in the National Security Administration, not a single individual, (at least on the front face of the administration), is of color. Perhaps this could be a reason why this topic has been brought up as a current issue. The question(s) then arose to had there been a person of color, would our security measures for those considered in the minority groups be different? How are those who are not considered or classified as the stereotypical American affected by the current security measures in the United States?

Looking back to our present day leaders in the United States, it is seen that people of color are very underrepresented as leaders of government appointed positions, (especially those in the national security administration department). According to the Democracy Unrealized: The Underrepresentation of People of Color as Appointed Policy Leaders in State Governments, report, it shown that women and men of color constitute nearly 32% of the population, yet, they only hold 16% of the top-ranking positions appointed by the nations governors. Think about that for a second, reflect on your own state and who is representing it. Are they a person of color? Probably not. In that very study, it was shown that 11 out of the 29 states that they have surveilled, held a position of color (A person of color is to be considered African Americans, Latino, Asia American, Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Native). Judith Saidel, the executive director who conducted the study stated, “Whether we look at how many people of color currently hold top leadership appointee positions, or the trends over time in gubernatorial appointments, there are still significant gaps in the representativeness of executive branch leadership in state governments” Even though this study was conducted several years back, it still pertains to our present day. Only, the major difference we may proudly point out is that after 227 years, the United States inducted its first black President, Mr. Barack Hussein Obama. This was a sign for hope amongst those considered the “minority” as if a person of color is to make it as far as to becoming the nation’s greatest leader, then perhaps we may have a voice after all.

So what does all this mean? In mine, as well as the many folks who may be reading this, to be a South-Asian American, Indian, Latino/Latina, African American, Egyptian, Muslim, Arabian, etc. in America is to be two immeasurable nebulous forces coming together. It is here, in the United States, that it is remotely possible where this ambiguous idea can meet and become the entity to which we shall have labeled as our identity.

What can you do? Speak up, spread the word, utilize your voice and the amenities around you rather than wait for someone else to do it for you. We constantly complain about amongst our peers anyhow, why not make that proclamation of rightful change?

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