Growing Up As A Second Generation Immigrant

Growing Up As A Second Generation Immigrant

23% of the children in the United States are in the same position I see myself in today.

I am an Indian American. Not a Native American, the indigenous people of North America, but an Indian American, whose ancestors hail from India. I was born in the United States to immigrant parents. Today, I deal with the same issues around 23% of our children deal with: I'm stuck between worlds.

As a child, all I wanted was to fit in. At school I desperately tried to Americanize myself, change myself to meet a standard that I considered "American". I pronounced my name differently, tried to make it easier for people to say. I had a slight accent; it was ruthlessly quashed. I staunchly refused to take Indian food to school, I would eat sandwiches instead. I blessed my light skin tone, it made it difficult to identify my ethnicity. As I grew up, I distanced myself from my roots, my heritage.

At home, my parents would talk in Hindi. My mother would cook Indian food, and I ate it for dinner each day. I had a happy childhood, but it wasn't what I considered "American." I don't know why I let it bother me.

Furthermore, I would hear derogatory slurs hurled by fellow Indian Americans directed toward other Indian Americans. "She's so whitewashed," they would sneer, "What a coconut, brown on the outside, white on the inside."

Yet, something changed when I reached high school. I live in an area where 22.5% of the population was Asian, and I soon realized that there was no point in my distancing myself from my background. India has a rich history, it is better celebrated than hidden. I began to embrace both sides of myself. I am now so much more comfortable with who I am. I am an American citizen. I am every bit as American as any other citizen. I have my own culture, and that's ok too. America is known for it's incredibly diverse population, and I'm proud to be able to add to that.

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