Although we live in the capital of a country led by a biracial president, discrimination against multiculturalism is blatantly manifested here on campus. As a biracial student myself, I have had the burden of facing prejudice within one of the ethnic communities I belong to at Georgetown.
My mom is Indian and Hindu, and my dad is Nigerian and Christian. As such, I was raised at the intersection of two cultural spheres that otherwise share little middle ground. I’m sure others would readily agree that being biracial, or multiethnic more generally, isn’t easy. I’m a living, breathing contradiction, racially ambiguous to most. I am regularly faced with the process of categorization-sorted and identified by checking off the “other” box in the question about race. I’ve never quite fit perfectly in either ethnic group; my skin is too light to be Nigerian, and my hair is too curly to be Indian. There’s no question that I look mixed, though only a select few can correctly guess my ethnicity.
I, along with my sisters, was born and raised Hindu and have only been to church a handful of times. I’ve grown up fully exposed to all aspects of my Indian heritage. I go to temple, speak Hindi, go to India, eat meals using only my right hand, and debate the hottest Bollywood actors. And after 20 years, I can easily tell my mint chutney from my coconut chutney without tasting a drop. Despite growing up steeped in Indian culture, the Georgetown community has yet to accept me.
So maybe I can’t dance bhangra and maybe my hair is too crazily curly to look like the standard silky Indian hair. But I have received no greater insult than being asked if I only attend weekly Hindu prayer services as a requirement for a class, or having simple customs and Hindi words patronizingly explained to me as if I were a small child. I’ve been approached at South Asian events at Georgetown and asked from whom I borrow all my Indian clothes because they couldn’t possibly be mine. I’ve had a tableful of Hindu girls get up and move to another table after I tried to sit with them after prayer services. I’ve watched the Indian community embrace Indian freshmen and transfer students, forming instant friendships upon first meeting, while I’ve stood on the sidelines for two years awaiting their acceptance.
I don’t naïvely expect to be best friends with the entire community, but public acknowledgment would be nice. Recognition of our shared culture without the need for me to circulate a copy of my family tree at the next South Asian event would be even better. I find that I would much rather have people openly ask me about my racial background than have them make baseless assumptions about it. It is the strangest and most absurd thing, to have so many people ostracize you without knowing anything about you, and do whatever they can to exclude you from a public student group at Georgetown.
As hurt as I am by the discrimination I face on a regular basis in the Indian community, I am not about to stop attending their events or going to prayer services just because I don’t have anyone to sit with. I have a right to engage in and celebrate my culture, and I won’t give others the satisfaction of excluding me from it.
All that said, I love being biracial. I wouldn’t give it up for anything, or elect to be one race over the other. The different perspectives I’ve been exposed to have made me more open to new experiences and given me a unique appreciation for other cultures. We attend a university rich in diversity, dedicated to religious and cultural pluralism. That is what makes racial profiling and prejudice on campus so disappointing. Maybe if we set aside our preconceptions and hasty judgments, we would realize that we have more in common than we thought. As for the South Asian students, I’ve got some chai and samosas; so why can’t we be friends?