- Posted August 20, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Speaking up about sexual violence
Same India-Different Story
'I believe that [she] had every right to tell her story, but I wanted to alleviate the burden that it put on many Indians and other people in general. I had no intention of lessening the significance of her experience. I just wanted to highlight the dangers in writing such a one-sided piece on a population.' Another woman who said she was on the same University of Chicago sponsored trip to India, posted a response on CNN iReport calling on people to resist stereotyping Indian men and recognize that sexual assault happens all over the world.
- dsashin, CNN iReport producer
I want to address the consequences that arise from writing that lends itself to careless generalizations. The problem that this article has is that it ends up blaming an entire population for the actions of some. Many comments in response to RoseChasm’s article consist of Indian men and women shaming themselves because of what some Indian men have done and are doing. There are Indian men apologizing for being Indian men because of the message in this article. My goal in this response is to create a better overall attitude toward Indian men.
As the only black woman (and individual in general) on the trip, I can definitely say that I had a very unique experience in my program. Men stared at me in India. Women stared at me. Children and teenagers stared at me. All the time. I wanted to become invisible in the crowd. I felt that I stood out even more because I stood out very starkly from the Indian population and especially from my white and Asian peers. I was also targeted with harassment, and I felt violated many times on the trip. However, in my experiences in India, I have met a solid handful of warm and honest Indian men- men who are also college students, men who also love the thrill of riding on a motorcycle in the busy streets, men who defended me at necessary times, and men who took the time to get to know me and my culture. And that should not at all be surprising.
Men took pictures of me. But we must think that the same thing happens in America. We seldom stop to think of the abuse that Facebook or even Snapchat can hold in regards to people’s images. We are privileged with tools, and many Americans-men and women- use these tools to take inappropriate, malicious pictures of other American individuals. Knowing this, we cannot criminalize Indian men for doing the same. This does not at all justify any malicious use of people’s images- we just cannot attribute this crime to generally Indian men.
To address the attempted rapes on the program, I was also very frightened while on the trip. After hearing about the attacks that happened to girls I knew, I also stayed up at night wondering if someone was going to break into my room. RoseChasm has addressed this, but what RoseChasm doesn’t address is the fact that rape happens in America as well. This focus on what happened to one individual on a study abroad trip to India makes it seem like no woman can enjoy a trip to India and that she would be ultimately safer in America. We must be aware of the rapes that occur worldwide, but we also need to internalize the fact that rapes in our country happen on college campuses, in cities, and in other unimaginable social situations. And people of many different ethnicities and racial backgrounds commit these acts.
So why should all Indian men be subjected to judgment for the rapes that some men have committed? RoseChasm does not address the fact that there are warm and honest men in India. When we do not make the distinction that only some men of a population commit a crime, we develop a stereotype for an entire population. And when we develop a negative stereotype for a population, what arises? Racism.
I am black, and I have to deal with the fact that even today in America many people characterize my entire race by the choices made by some people who have the same color skin as me. It doesn’t matter that I am an American, and it doesn’t matter that my mother raised me to have good morals. For all we know I could walk up to someone at night in a hoodie and I could be mistaken for someone who will do harm.
When we allow a population to be subjected to a stereotype, we allow people to take action on a person based on that stereotype. Why did George Zimmerman feel justified in shooting an unarmed black young man in a hoodie? Why do people stay away from certain Chicago Transit Authority train stations? Why do people immediately freeze when they drive into a predominantly black neighborhood? When we make comments against a population, we create a movement of hatred and ignorance that is difficult to reverse.
I understand RoseChasm’s pain, and I too had a hard time readjusting to life in America after my experience in India. I truly hope for her to be well again, but I will not sit back and allow the image of India’s men to be tarnished by an article that does not articulate other sides to India. I experienced love, excitement, and awe in India. And while I did experience unacceptable harassment, I know that my ability to not generalize a population will allow people to see that we must find another way to deal with this issue.