It's 2017, I Should Not Be Your Only Brown Friend

It's 2017, I Should Not Be Your Only Brown Friend

In the world we live in today, people are so quick to judge you once they find out just one thing about who you are.
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Growing up, I had a pretty diverse friend group. I am Indian, my best friend is Latina and my other best friend is Asian. So, I am used to learning about different cultures, eating unique foods, and learning bits and pieces of different languages. Going into college, I was super excited to meet what would be my college friends and continue to learn about people who came from very different life paths than me.

One day as I was sitting in my friend’s dorm, the topic of diversity within our friend group came up. At that point, one of my guy friends mentioned how he had never been friends or really known any Indian people before coming to college. This took me by surprise. I asked him, “so I am the first Indian person you have ever been friends with?” He replied, slightly embarrassed, with a yes. He went on to say how he didn’t know much about the Indian culture and that he had never even tried South Asian cuisine before. After seeing my reaction, my friend explained how he grew up in a really small town where everyone knew each other and everyone was Caucasian. Where he was from, there wasn’t really an opportunity to meet people who were Indian or Latino or anything other than white for that matter. The limited diversity in his hometown was what motivated him to go outside of his comfort zone and attend a college that is known to be quite diverse and inclusive.

After hearing his story and understanding where he came from, I instantly became fascinated by the concept of being the first person within your race to interact with a particular individual. The idea that the impression that I give him about my culture is what he will use as his baseline knowledge on the culture as a whole is actually quite profound if you think about it. My friend knew nothing about Indian people. To him, people who looked like me or my dad or my brother were the people painted across the news every night characterized as terrorists. Since he had never really known or met any Indian people before, he fell into the trap many people nowadays do and believed the stereotypes perpetuated by the media. The silver lining to this is that in the few months that we were developing our friendship as freshmen in college, I was actually normalizing his perception of brown people without even realizing it. Through multiple conversations on my pride for my culture and my love for samosas, my friend began to realize how wrong of a perception he had. All brown people are not what you see on the news and also not necessarily what you see in Bollywood movies either. Brown people are normal people with normal lives which is something that my friend realized throughout the course of our friendship. This fact is what moved me the most.

One of the most difficult things to do is explain to someone why generalizing and stereotyping is wrong. You can explain to someone all day how all people are unique and different and how you cannot group people of a similar whatever together. However, despite those countless explanations, people still go throughout their everyday lives stereotyping people in their head. The fact that I was able to make my friend realize why his stereotyping was wrong through simply educating him on my culture and what it actually stands for really touched me.

In the world we live in today, people are so quick to judge you once they find out just one thing about who you are. Oh, you’re brown, you must be a terrorist. Oh, you are Christian, you must hate gay people. Oh, you’re an immigrant, you must have come here illegally. The list goes on and on and it is simply a cycle we must break. This can only happen with compassion and education. People will never learn to accept who others truly are if they lack the compassion required to take the time to understand. Further, you cannot always just assume people know about a specific facet of your identity; sometimes you have to teach them. Educating people is the only way for people to learn what is the truth and what are the reasons or justifications on a certain issue that they have just made up in their head.

Therefore, I urge everyone to do their part in helping this cause. Educate the people around you about facets of your identity that they maybe do not know much about. Do so with compassion and with the understanding that some people may walk away still thinking the same way as they did before and others will walk away having learned something new. Even if you effect only one person, you still made a difference. You still made someone realize that all Indian people aren’t bad people. You still made someone try curry for the first time. You still made someone look at you as a friend and not a foe. And honestly, trying to make a difference is all anyone can really ask you to do.

Cover Image Credit: Nidhi Singh

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To The Parent Who Chose Addiction

Thank you for giving me a stronger bond with our family.

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When I was younger I resented you, I hated every ounce of you, and I used to question why God would give me a parent like you. Not now. Now I see the beauty and the blessings behind having an addict for a parent. If you're reading this, it isn't meant to hurt you, but rather to thank you.

Thank you for choosing your addiction over me.

Throughout my life, you have always chosen the addiction over my programs, my swim meets or even a simple movie night. You joke about it now or act as if I never questioned if you would wake up the next morning from your pill and alcohol-induced sleep, but I thank you for this. I thank you because I gained a relationship with God. The amount of time I spent praying for you strengthened our relationship in ways I could never explain.

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Thank you for giving me a stronger bond with our family.

The amount of hurt and disappointment our family has gone through has brought us closer together. I have a relationship with Nanny and Pop that would never be as strong as it is today if you had been in the picture from day one. That in itself is a blessing.

Thank you for showing me how to love.

From your absence, I have learned how to love unconditionally. I want you to know that even though you weren't here, I love you most of all. No matter the amount of heartbreak, tears, and pain I've felt, you will always be my greatest love.

Thank you for making me strong.

Thank you for leaving and for showing me how to be independent. From you, I have learned that I do not need anyone else to prove to me that I am worthy of being loved. From you, I have learned that life is always hard, but you shouldn't give into the things that make you feel good for a short while, but should search for the real happiness in life.

Most of all, thank you for showing me how to turn my hurt into motivation.

I have learned that the cycle of addiction is not something that will continue into my life. You have hurt me more than anyone, but through that hurt, I have pushed myself to become the best version of myself.

Thank you for choosing the addiction over me because you've made me stronger, wiser, and loving than I ever could've been before.

Cover Image Credit: http://crashingintolove.tumblr.com/post/62246881826/pieffysessanta-tumblr-com

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A Feminist Critique Of The #MeToo Movement's Blindspot

I'm a feminist, but here is my problem with #MeToo.

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The recent discussion of sexual violence in American society has sparked a fiery debate over how to create change for women everywhere. A topic which was once a whisper in the back of the room has become a national discussion of women's rights. But what about the rampant sexual violence towards Native American women? There is no #MeToo conversation inclusive of the atrocities which Native American women are facing.

Society has been so focused on a relatable narrative when creating #MeToo, that America has completely sidelined and consequently exacerbated the issues of the Native American community. Just because the poverty which Natives face is not relatable in the way the middle and upper-middle class stories of #MeToo are, does not mean that the stories of the more powerful are the only ones worth listening to.

According to Amnesty International, Native American women are 2.5 times more likely to experience sexual violence, yet there seems to be no hashtag or mass movement inclusive of them. These high rates of sexual violence, mixed with low rates of prosecution, have created a vicious and shocking cycle of violence on reservations. The severe sexual violence being experienced by Native American women is a widespread and pressing issue that is lacking proper attention and legislative action and it's truly appalling.

In a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, 94% of the nearly 300 Native American women surveyed reported being raped in their lives. This figure is absolutely terrifying. To put this into a more local context, the Navajo Nation reservation in Arizona has had "more rapes [between 2008-2014] reported than in San Diego, Detroit or Denver," according to FBI's reports. This issue has plagued Natives for generations but remains overlooked and undiscussed by the majority of Americans. The #MeToo discussion revolves the idea of a relatable platform, but just because poverty isn't relatable does not entail that those in poverty should not receive justice. It's baffling how an issue can be this salient to one group of people yet go completely unnoticed by another.

To break the issue down, tribal courts have several large obstacles preventing them from acting as an effective means of justice. The main difficulty is the inability to prosecute non-Natives. Even though in "86% of the reported cases of rape against American Indian women, survivors report non-Native perpetrators,” justice cannot be served because tribes don't have the jurisdiction to prosecute. One can only imagine the frustration of a minority group which cannot receive justice in the face of a more socioeconomically powerful perpetrator.

Most recently, the Violence Against Women's Act of 1994 created an amendment in 2013 to give tribal courts the right to prosecute non-Natives who committ domestic and dating violence. This amendment fails to take into consideration however, that most rape cases against Native women are not domestic or dating violence. It seems inconceivable how such injustice is occurring but the media and movements like #MeToo simply aren't aware of it. In order to affect change for women everywhere, everyone's issues must be accounted for, even if issue of those in poverty aren't "relatable."

In the search for justice, tribes often send cases they do have jurisdiction over to U.S. Justice Department. In his New York Times Article, Timothy Williams cites that the Justice Department however did not pursue 65% of rape charges on reservations and 61% of cases involving the sexual abuse of Native children in 2012. So, while Native American women are two and a half times more likely to be raped, only one-third of them have a chance at receiving the justice they deserve. It almost feels as though it comes from a place of elitism that there are very few cases in which Natives can receive justice because they don't have jurisdiction over a seemingly untouchable group of richer people.

Sexual violence and the lack of prosecution to address it in the Native American community is a crisis which will never improve if continued to be left alone. Nothing will change until tribal courts have the power to fully enact law and order in their communities. It's been shown that the U.S. Justice Department ignores the issue and the U.S. public is unaware that this is even happening. With the current efforts which are being made to empower and protect women, American society has gotten lost in framing the issue to be relatable to the point where they have forgotten an entire group of people.

Until the public has been made aware of the severity of this issue, no legislation will be passed to help these women and the elitist injustice will continue. #MeToo is meant to give a voice to victims of sexual violence, but this mission will never be successful until the plight of Native American women has been heard.

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