Tatted Up

Readers, I forgot to mention that I got a tattoo last week! My sisters and I wanted to do something together that signified our commitment to each other. We may have been brought together by family, but we are choosing to stay together because we love each other.

Being apart from my eldest sister this past year has been really difficult for all of us. We had to get to know one another all over again during the past two weeks, but ultimately we are stronger in our relationship because of the challenges we faced together.

It took us forever to come to a consensus about what we wanted, how it would look, and where to place it. All of us had to compromise, but it was important that we all got the same thing. We decided on a lotus blossom for a number of reasons: (1) it’s the national flower of India, (2) it’s a symbol for purity, beauty, and flexibility, and (3) it’s really pretty. :)

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We went to a place called Tattoo Bills in Charlotte, NC. They were really nice and accommodating. I highly recommend them! We decided to go in age order, so I went last. Before my experience, a lot of people told me that getting a tattoo doesn’t hurt all that much. A lot of people are liers! It hurt SO MUCH. It was like getting deeply scratched by a cat with really long nails. The memory of that pain will haunt me. Luckily, it didn’t take more than 10 minutes. It’s strange that permanently altering your appearance should take that little time and be such an easy process…you know, besides the excruciating pain.

I’m kind of a badass now, cause I’m tatted up. ;)

Beck

What Are You?

Today, I attended the Women of Color Institute conference at my school. While this conference was very inspirational and empowering, I couldn’t help but feel a bit frustrated by my awkward position as biracial. Most of the speakers and attendees were African-American, with a few Latina and Asian-American participants. And then there was me, half Indian and half White. I don’t believe that I was the only biracial or mixed race woman there, but if there were others present, I wasn’t able to distinguish them from the group. Most of time this doesn’t bother me, but I quickly grow silent when the topics such as African-American hair care come up (and it always comes up). I don’t quite fit in.

Most people who are biracial choose to favor one part of their identity over the other in order to participate fully in that race or ethnic culture. I don’t have that ability. Sure, technically I’m Asian-American, but no one thinks of India when someone says “Asia”. You’d be surprised how many people don’t know that India is part of Asia. Even some Asian-American people I have met look confused when I try to identify myself as Asian. Then, when I say I’m Indian, people ask me what tribe I’m in and I have to further clarify my racial identity.

Trying to pass as White was never really an option for me either. Living in the US, it’s easier to identify more with the majority culture, but no one ever looks at me and thinks, “That girl is white.” I’m not white, I’m half white; historically and culturally, there’s a huge difference. I can’t ignore the Indian part of me and I don’t want to. Nor would White people accept me if I tried.

Coming to a predominantly white institution really emphasizes my otherness, so I never felt comfortable hanging out with huge groups of white students. Nor did I feel welcome in the small Black community on campus. Even though I’m a woman of color and feel some affiliation with Black culture, when it comes down to it, I am not Black and I will never know what it’s like to be a Black woman in the US. And while I do look Hispanic, I’m not, so it’s not as though I could insert myself into their organizations or social groups either. In fact, it bothers me when people mislabel me as Hispanic, because it emphasizes the fact that I don’t really look Indian, even though I am.

I know what you’re thinking, “Why aren’t you making friends with the Indian students?” Well, reader, I cannot participate in the Indian culture completely for two reasons: I don’t know Hindi, and I’m a Christian. Knowing the language would open up new opportunities to participate in the shared stories, songs, and traditions of India. Because I have not yet learned the language, participation in these aspects of culture, shallow though they are, is more difficult. I listen to and sing Hindi songs and I watch Hindi films, but my understanding of them will always be through a Western and English filter. Much of Indian culture, values, and traditions also come from a shared participation of Hinduism. I’m not Hindu, so many of those aspects of Indian culture are lost to me. So yes, I am Indian, but only half Indian, and other Indian people tend to ignore me because I cannot participate in their culture fully.

So, where does that leave me? Nowhere and everywhere. I don’t fit into the ineffective and over-simplified categories of race in the US. But, this is what sometimes makes me feel frustrated and sometimes fortunate. I have a double consciousness and I can code switch really well. I know what it is like to be a minority in the US. I also know what it is like to not be a minority in the US. As a racially ambiguous person on the surface, I am faced with discrimination and racism. However, because I am not a part of a historically marginalized group, the stereotype threat I face is not as well-defined as that of African-American or Hispanic people. In other words, people are racist, but they’re not sure what I am, so they can’t make specific negative assumptions about who I am. This is good because it gives me more opportunities to define myself before others try to define me. This is also frustrating on days like today, when I wish I could identify easily with one race or another in order to feel a stronger sense of community and sisterhood. I love being biracial because I am proud of both sides of my racial identity, but if you don’t learn how to navigate around racial barriers and code switch, it is a lonely existence.

Beck

Why America Should Not be a Melting Pot

I have a problem when I hear people describe the US as a “melting pot” of races. First, it’s not true. Our country has not lived up to that image. Second, I don’t ever want it to be true.

I read an article recently about an African-American woman who was so fair-skinned she could and did pass for a white woman occasionally growing up. For her it meant better jobs, housing, education, and more respect. I’m not criticizing her for this (code switching is very useful), but I think it’s a shame that she had to deny part of her identity in order to be accepted in society. That’s what the melting pot does. It makes you shed part of your cultural and personal identity in order to fit the mold of the white majority. It teaches you that the part of you that is different, that is non-white, is not valued or worth recognition.

Patricia Williams, when she spoke at my school, said that the US has waves of minorities that eventually get pushed to be either white or black. Italians and other Eastern Europeans that immigrated to America were once discriminated against, but are now considered white and enjoy those privileges. They were assimilated because they were able to pass. What happened to the rich culture and traditions of those assimilated? They were abandoned and replaced with other traditions more suited to the majority. For me, that’s a sad thing. Everyone deserves to be valued for their differences and be able to maintain the integrity of their culture, without it being denied or watered down by a desire for better jobs and treatment.

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I’m reading Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison right now and there is a part of the book (CH 10) that I think applies here. The main character gets a job at a Liberty Paint factory where they make the purest white paint in the world. How? They put ten drops of a black chemical into each bucket. They mix it in until it disappears. I don’t want black culture to disappear. I don’t want any ethnic culture to disappear.

When I was growing up, my parents didn’t speak Hindi around me or my sisters. They wanted us to learn English. How I wish they had taught us Hindi too! I know a lot of families that do the same thing. Perhaps if I had learned Hindi, I would feel a stronger connection to that part of my identity. This is an example of culture being watered down, and it was a result of my parents wanting a better life for their children by emphasizing their white identities.

So no, I don’t want America to be a melting pot. If we really desire to be a multicultural nation, we have to accept each culture as different but not deficient and see the value in diversity. We need to become a salad bowl of awesomeness.

Liebster Award

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I’m so grateful to be considered as an up and coming blogger by my fellow writer Tessa Kohler and receive the Liebster Award. I got curious and did a little research into this award and found a post on Sopphey Says about its origins. Lieb means beloved or dearest in German. It is a peer-nominated award that is for blogs with less than 200 followers and works a little bit like chain mail. The earliest mention of the award she found is from 2010 by a German blogger.  There are no rules or judges, it’s basically an official way to tell someone they are awesome. Since I’m new to blogging, I don’t know enough bloggers with less than 200 followers to nominate more, but I will update this post as I come across new blogs.

The only thing I have to do to “accept” this award is answer the questions that came with the nomination, so here it goes.

1. Why do you blog?
All artists desire to receive feedback for their work. I consider myself an artist in various occupations, as a musician, singer, and writer. I have been longing to expose myself to “the world” for a while and this blog seemed the most efficient way to do that. I’m not blogging because I feel I have special powers of expression, or anything to say that has not been said before, but because I have a message that I think people can relate to. Really, I just want my readers to know that they can find joy and happiness in a seemingly mundane and insignificant existence, and that they’re not alone in looking for an answer to the question I think we’re all asking each other constantly, “Do you know what I mean?” All humans want connection and understanding with others, and I think this is my phone call to the internet-world asking for a response to my “Hello?”

2. What is one of your favorite songs and why?
I changed this question to say “one of” my favorite songs because I have so many favorite songs and I’m constantly adding to the list. However, one song that comes to mind is from one of my favorite bands, Future of Forestry, and is called “Slow Your Breath Down”. I love this song not only because the lyrics remind me to slow down in God’s presence and breathe through the painful moments of life, but because it is musically interesting and beautiful. Listen to it below and let me know how much you like it! : )

3. Describe yourself in three words.
Passionate, Creative, Enthusiastic

4. Who is the one person that can always make you smile?
My sister, Sarah, is my best friend and confidant. She is also hilarious and can make me laugh just by giving me a look.

5. Describe your idea of a perfect day.
My perfect day is some variation of me getting to hang out with all my friends all day. We cook brunch and drink mimosas then watch movies and/or go shopping all day. We end the day at a classy lounge eating cheesecake and drinking cocktails we didn’t pay for.

6. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go and why?
The Moon because it’s the freaking Moon and not many people have been there before. Also, Europe and India because I have family there.

7. Where do you find inspiration in life?
I find inspiration from my family and friends. Also, Leslie Knope is my inspiration for getting through challenges and obstacles in life. Her work ethic and enthusiasm is on point. I desire tore-center Christ as my daily and lifelong inspiration for everything I do (this is a long process).

8. If you could spend a day with one person, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Jesus, because He’s someone I’m trying to live like. It’d be cool to see Him in action, even for a day.

9. What would you like to be remembered for?
Helping people achieve their academic and personal growth potential.

10. Have you ever experienced a turning point in your life? If so, what caused it, and what have you learned from it?
I have experienced many turning points in my life. Usually my failure causes it, and I learn more about myself and how much I can’t do anything without total reliance on Christ. This is something I am constantly re-learning. I plan to blog about this most recent turning point that happened last semester soon.

Beck