- Posted August 19, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Everyday racism: Your stories
Being Someone Else
schocolate was featured on CNN.com as part of the Everyday Racism project. Read more here and join the conversation.
- dsashin, CNN iReport producer
I was asked this question in my tenth-grade history class. I had no idea how to respond. It had been seven years since 9/11 and the distrustful looks I received as a third-grader for being brown in rural Tennessee.
“You’re from Iraq, right? So, what’s it like being a terrorist?”
The guy who was asking me these questions was someone I had known since elementary school. We were on friendly terms, and I was positive that he knew I was from India—we had worked on a project about it recently. A friend in the class told him to shut up.
Another time in high school, someone I had a crush on told me that I would be pretty if I were white. Friends would stand close to me and sniff, asking if I smelled like curry. People would refuse to pronounce my last name, complaining about how foreign it was. Once I was called a lazy n***** in a grocery store by a lady who wanted me to move out of her way. Even a close family friend would talk about her distaste for “colored people,” seemingly ignoring the fact that the term included me too.
The racism I experienced growing up seems less important compared to many of the cases publicized in the news. I was never directly harassed or physically hurt. The racism I dealt with was casual, joking, often unintentional.
My racism was not dramatic or violent. It was just a reminder that I was different from most of my peers and that I didn’t quite fit in the way I was supposed to. Leaving rural Tennessee and moving to Chicago for college should have helped, but I had spent so long trying to be white that I didn’t know how to be myself anymore. It’s embarrassing, really. All I learned from my experiences with racism was how to be as unobtrusive as possible.
All people deserve to be themselves. All human beings have value. And racism of any kind, violent or casual, detracts from those basic tenets.