Forty-Something Years in Ninaland



I like to think my identity is Untitled. It has no name, no color, no race. I am just nina. But I live in the real world, and in this life, people like to call me Indian American. I’ll take it, but I know better.

It is India’s Independence Day today. The reason I bring this up is that India’s Independence and America’s Civil Rights Movement have similar qualities. Both India and America broke away from oppression in similar ways. In fact, Martin Luther King learned peaceful protest from Mahatma Gandhi.

There has been some serious violence in the US for a few days now over race relations. It’s hard to watch fellow humans rioting for white supremacy. But this is obviously not the first time this has happened in human history. When my grandfather was working in India, he worked for the British and he would talk about places where there were signs that said, “No Indians and No Dogs.” It was very much like the “White’s Only” signs they used to have here in the U.S.

What is supremacy really about, whether it be white supremacy or patriarchy? It’s about fear. What are these relatively average white people so afraid of when they go around screaming hateful epitaphs to anyone different than them? Racism and sexism and any such kind of ism is institutional, isn’t it? There is a system in place. Nobody even remembers how they got there in the first place, all they know is, they must fight to stay at the top of the ladder. No matter who they have to push down.

The Alt-Right Protesting

I watched the movie Gandhi in two very different settings. One was many years ago in high school in a class with a white male teacher who truly believed in equality and expressed his love for diversity. He was very interested in my culture and showed a deep respect for its traditions.

The second time I watched Gandhi was a few years ago in a classroom with a teacher who I was working under as a student teacher. He was a white male of a different sort. He made me feel as though I had dark skin and my skin is not that dark. I have this problem where when I am in a room with someone who makes me feel uncomfortable about my ethnicity, I feel my skin getting darker.

As much as this teacher professed his love for Gandhi, he did not know how to handle a real Indian woman who the students loved and respected more than him. How do I know he was racist and not just a regular asshole? I mean he did show the movie Gandhi in his classes. There is this feeling, women know the feeling and minorities know the feeling. It is a feeling that someone thinks they are superior to you because of their gender or race, or both. In this case, I believe it was both.

I don’t remember the specifics of how I came to the conclusion that this man was uncomfortable with my race, but I do know that he looked at Indian culture as if it were an exotic, oriental, other thing. It was similar to some men who I have met who have Indian women fetishes. He was interested in my culture but in a way that otherized and exotified it. India was a feature film to him, but when he had an Indian standing in front of him who wasn’t Gandhi, he did not understand and eventually fired me.

I don’t think he fired me because of my ethnicity, but I do think it was a factor in his dislike for me. I think the real problem was his students disliked him and loved me, so he began to dislike himself. I was stepping on his boundaries. I don’t think he has any idea that my ethnicity was a factor in my dismissal, and that’s part of the problem. When racism is so ingrained within the system, those who practice it often are oblivious to their actions. He eventually tried to prove that I was liked by the students because I was too lenient and was incompetent as a teacher. I had more college degrees than he did and most likely a better teaching style for the modern student.

He was an old man who was stuck in his ways. You know the type, they don’t hate your gender or your culture, just don’t get in their way. We, minorities, in this country, are getting in the way of certain white people who are set in their ways. The technology field, the medical field, and many other fields are being ‘taken over’ by minorities, especially Asian Americans.

We are getting in their way, people. Things were fine when we were just driving cabs and running motels. But now we are playing in the big leagues. The CEOs of Microsoft and Google are both Indian. We are calling the shots and people are getting uncomfortable. Instead of looking down on us, many people have to look up to a boss who is a minority. White supremacists don’t hate minorities because they are ignorant, they know what they are doing, but they don’t like what the world is doing. The world is becoming cosmopolitan. In a few years, the majority in the US will not be Caucasian.

This used to be a country run by white people through oppression. This country was founded by oppressing Native Americans and Black people. Just like the British came to the United States and took over, they did the same thing in India. India did not belong to the British just as much as America didn’t belong to the English settlers.

Now the US may become a country where people are so mixed race that no one can assign another to a certain race or nationality. We will all just be international citizens of the world. I guess if you were to ask me my identity, I would say I’m Indian American. But I am neither fully Indian or fully American or fully mixed. I am something entirely different altogether. I’m far more complex than these labels.

After a while, after we are all sort of brownish because of the mixing of race, it won’t be clear to those white supremacists who they are supposed to hate. In reality, they hate themselves. They can’t get into Med school because Asians have taken over that realm. They can’t get a house in Silicon Valley because the real estate is mostly owned by Indians and other Asians.

You know what the real kicker is? Indian Americans and Asian Americans don’t hate white people at all. In fact, we speak their language, eat their food and often marry Caucasians. We don’t give a shit about race, really, we just want to be accepted for our mixed heritage and we don’t want to have to fight for this acceptance anymore.

My ancestors fought the British in India, my grandfather was in the army during the Independence of India. Only Indians and Pakistanis know how many people were killed for the Independence of India. How much more fighting is there going to be before we have independence from white supremacists in America? African Americans and Native Americans know how many people were killed before Civil Rights.

We now have a president who is being complicit with the racism in this country because he benefits from it. His cabinet and close advisors are known racists. I don’t think Donald Trump is racist. I think he’s ambivalent about race and too stupid to even think about it.  I think Donald Trump just likes the fact that racist people vote for him. It’s so twisted it’s almost worse.

I’m not black, I’m not white, I fall somewhere in between, commonly called brown. Come on people, we can do better than these stupid colors. We are not crayons. My skin is olive colored. My ethnicity is something altogether different.

However, I get privilege because I’m not black. People think I’m smart because I’m Indian. I need to acknowledge my own privilege before I scream about how white supremacists are terrorists. How am I benefitting from institutionalized racism? I am a fair skinned North Indian. Do I have more privilege than a darker skinned South Indian? Probably.

You know what we need to do is stop staring at all the commotion on the T.V. and start staring at ourselves in the mirror. As a society, we have created these racist monsters. Ask yourself the question, where do I benefit from racial privilege? People happen to think I’m Hispanic, Arabic, Native American, etc. They often make judgments about me because of what they assume to be my ethnic background.

Let me tell you this: the next time someone asks me where I come from, I will say Earth. I don’t know any other place that I belong to. When they ask me what I am, I will say a Human Being. These white supremacist neo nazis call themselves human beings.

It’s our job to remind them what it means to be human by being that way ourselves.


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