NOTE: Before you delve deeply into this post, please understand that I was definitely in my feelings when I wrote this. By no means am I demeaning anyone or India as a country. These following words are my personal thoughts and feelings (not that of the U.S. Department of State or the Fulbright Program). I feel as an American and black woman I have the duty to express these thoughts. I can no longer keep this in. Here goes...
This morning I woke up thinking I am going to make this Sunday a productive day! After having some breakfast, watching TV, responding to my latest comments on Facebook, and having one quick Skype session with my sister, I officially felt ready to be ‘productive.’ My first order of business was to complete the next lesson I will be teaching to my students. I had to make this lesson really good because I will also be evaluated by Fulbright on this lesson (yup, my boss and a Language Teaching consultant are scheduled to observe each of the ETA’s on how they connect with their students—they play no games!). Believe it or not, lesson planning is no joke!—props to all teachers. It took me a little over two hours to officially complete this lesson. Currently, my students are learning about Schools in America. Following that I decided to teach a lesson on Bullying—much needed in my school because many of my students are victims of bullying (unfortunately).
While doing some research and putting things together for this lesson, I found that there are several hundred types of bullying—OMG, I thought, can this get any more complicated? As I perused for the least condensed definition of bullying, I came across several articles and such to incorporate into the lesson. An article written by a Black American, titled, India is Racist and Happy About It, blew me away. Let me backtrack a little—how does racism and bullying even link? Well, ‘racist bullying’ is a form of bullying that involves any hostile or offensive action against people because of their skin color, cultural or religious background/ethnic origin. Moving on—as I read and re-read this article, I kept thanking God because CLEARLY I am not the only one who has been feeling this type of injustice. Yes, I am finally admitting it— I believe that I am a victim of ‘racist bullying’ by the people of India. I understand that this is a very broad speculation, but I am totally serious. Let me explain...granted, not all Indians are to blame, however the other 97% definitely have some explaining to do.
Since I came here to India, actually, since I boarded the plane in Chicago, IL to get to India, people have stopped whatever it is they were doing just to stare at me. Three months later, I still get gawked at on a daily basis by anyone and everyone I pass by. It really is disturbing to constantly have adults and children alike tease and gaze at you. In the lesson I created, I mention how social bullying can be devastating to one’s self esteem due to the public nature of the torments. Granted, I have not been physically touched by anyone (Thank God) but this feeling of being ostracised is also painful. Aside from the stares, I constantly get insults/degrading comments thrown at me (mainly in Bengali or Hindi).
I had one experience where I was headed from school back to my apartment. On this particular day, the bus was PACKED! Despite how crowded the bus was, I stayed focused because I did not want to miss my stop. Sometime during the ride, I took one glance off of the road and to my surprise, this girl that was sitting adjacent to where I stood managed to have her phone casually up recording me while she laughs out loud with her friends. WHAT THE HECK!!! This was not the first time I caught someone trying to record me on their phone. Am I some movie?? I could hardly move from where I stood to react because it was so crowded so I just tried to silence my screams/cries of discomfort. What’s a girl to do??? I kept my frustrations in until I arrived to my apartment, greeted my cook, and locked the door of my room. Out of nowhere, I just started crying nonstop. I kept my cries quiet in case Hunter (my roommate) came because I did not want to involve him or Fulbright in general. This is a huge culture shock for me and it is hard for me to put to words for someone (who is not of the same race) to fully understand how I feel. Plus, I just didn’t want to worry anyone. Many people would consider crying as a sign of weakness—I did too at some point. However in this case, crying for me became a signal for my strength because I made it through yet another humiliating situation. I just cannot understand why such a country, of great diversity in people, religion, and culture consents to extreme dislike for people with dark skin.
In all my life, I will say that I have never lost pride in my identity nor race. This experience almost put me to that point but no matter what, I will not let that destroy my pride as a Haitian and African/Black-American woman. I know I can’t change my skin color (and I am not asking to do that). It just frustrates me how I am only identified by my race/skin color here. I did not come to India for this. This treatment thus far has definitely had a profound effect on my emotions, interaction with locals and overall worldview.
Being as I have about six more months left in this grant, I must keep my head levelled. Thus, I make sure to do my best at the job I came here to do and I volunteer often (you can never go wrong with helping those who can’t help themselves).
I definitely apologize for ranting so much. I just felt that you (my readers) needed to know holistically how my experience here in India has been for me.
*This is kind of random but totally relates to this post, I would like to mention that the title of this post was inspired by a song written by India.Aire called “I am not my hair.”If you haven’t heard it, I definitely suggest it, it’s an oldie (kind of). This song inspires self love, empowerment, and beauty in Black woman. The second part of the title was obviously related to this post.