In a place like the South, where you can be critically judged for looking different, sounding different or choosing different paths, it is easy to be washed away by the mundane standard that is considered "normal." Down here, if you're not the Christian, all-American, sweet-talking southern charmer that everyone else is, you're definitely going to get some rude comments, dirty looks or at the very least some uncomfortably long stares from some powdered old ladies. Getting these negative and often racist reactions for literally just being yourself is the most demeaning feeling, and if you don't get upset like I do, then you'll be compelled to change into something that gets all that attention off of you. This I feel is the absolute opposite of the melting pot that America is supposed to be and it is all the more reason for you to stand up and be proud to be different and be proud of your culture.
One great thing about America is that everyone comes from somewhere different. They each have a unique cultural road map that leads to a wealth of traditions and languages and ideas that are wildly different than your own. I think we grow as a community and a country when we accept and love someone for being different and embrace what they are about because their culture is their life, and sharing it with others opens not only their hearts, but yours too. Talking about their roots helps them become more comfortable with who they are, but you also automatically become more open-minded and accepting. Not to mention, you learn a little bit of something new, which is always a perk.
Being in touch with where you came from is extremely helpful in getting to know yourself. People always ask the stupid question of "What are you?" and it is actually so comforting to be able to have an answer to that ridiculous question.
To be able to teach someone about another place in the world and share the diversity that is your life and your heritage is the best experience for the giver and sometimes even the receiver as well.
You feel secure and grounded because you know where you came from and you know your people's struggles and it's almost humbling to know that you can live a better life because of them and their struggles to make the world a better a place for the next generation: you.
Half of my family comes from India. When I was a youngster, there weren't many Indian kids in my little corner of Middle Tennessee. Until high school, I was the only Indian child among a wild sea of white children. I did feel odd with the lack of diversity in my hometown and, of course, as a kid you always want to fit in, but I never renounced my heritage and I always took the chance to tell people where I was from. Even as a kid, I was proud to be different, and that gave me the foundation of confidence I would need to make it through growing up as a minority.
Today even more than before, I've embraced by my culture 100 percent. I am so proud to be a part of the country that has had such a major impact on the world many times in many different ways. I feel that it has given me an extra dimension in the abstract 3-D shape that is my personality.
I love my darker skin, I love the meaningful traditions my family practices, I love the different religions and languages, I definitely love the food, and most of all, I love being able to say that I come from such an amazing and influential country. There is a sense of comfort that comes with belonging somewhere, and it's so much better when one doesn't have to hide where they come from or what they believe in.
So don't be afraid to tell people where you are from. Your values, religions or ideals may be vastly different, but you will grow as a person once you are secure with yourself and are able to accept yourself for the uniquely shining star that you are. We are all different, as we were meant to be.