By Reeba Monachan, APIASF Staff
Sometimes it’s very evident that I’m…different. On a recent trip to a college in rural Pennsylvania I met a very nice, older gentleman when I stopped to ask for directions. It was my first time in that small town and I think it may have been one of his first times meeting someone like me.
Don’t get me wrong. He was very nice and was trying very hard to be complimentary, but his presumed flattery made evident his lack of exposure to and awareness of anyone that was not like him….or at least, someone that looked like me. It was clear I didn’t fit his mold.
Some people may have been upset by his words and questions, but I just wish I had not been so shocked as to not engage in further conversation.
If I saw him again I might say, “Sir, what religion do you think I am?” He may say Muslim or Hindu, as the majority of Indians are in one of those ‘categories’, or he may not even know what to say. I’d reply, “Actually, I’m Christian. Not because I converted after coming to the US but because in my very diverse state in India there’s a large population of Christians, Hindus, Muslims and even Jews! My family has been Christian for generations. Probably not what you expected, right?”
He’d probably ask me how my English got “so good” (a common question) and I’d get to tell him how I grew up in North Carolina and that although I still speak my Indian language, I speak English better than any other language, and that, in fact, most of my family does! And then I’d ask him the same thing. :)
He may be curious as to how my family came to the US all the way from India and I’d get to tell him of the rich culture that I grew up in, how I felt so at home at my predominantly white, Baptist church but came home to my mom’s South-Indian cooking every night. Or I’d tell him how I consider myself fully American but how I get to go back ‘home’ to India every few years, also. It’s lovely getting the privilege of experiencing two such wonderful cultures fully joined together, complementing each other in this one life.
I’d explain to him that most people don’t fit a mold. They may find pieces of the mold that they make their own, but once you get to know the person it erases most molds. And then, hopefully, my new friend and I wouldn’t feel so different.
What are your thoughts on and/or experiences with AANHPI stereotypes or misconceptions?