The recent crowning of Nina Duvulari as Miss America created some news waves which reached my own door step and knocked on my heart.
Deepa Iyer, executive director of the advocacy group South Asian Americans Leading Together, was quoted in a leading Indian news publication which really raised an important question. She said, “we’re still seeing this story of racist backlash that we have seen in many ways over the years. It just reflects the racial anxiety that some people have in this country when someone who looks or sounds different achieves a level of success that for some reason is seen as being reserved for a certain type of quote-unquote Americans.”
Is that really so? Are there some categories or levels of success that have been reserved for certain type of races? It takes me back to the shackles of caste system in India which Indians are struggling with to this date. This system of social stratification divided people into different “jaatis” and defined what people in some jaati could or could not do. Some jaatis were considered untouchables in this kind of a system. I know I am using an extreme example to compare the Miss america news with but some extreme reaction has been generated on social media. Even though technology has broken many barriers and the world is becoming a global village in one sense, it is indeed heart breaking to see some people react unfavourably to positive change.
As a first generation immigrant -citizen of Canada, my hope for my daughter is that all the opportunities that this country has to offer will be available to her. Money and other circumstances aside , I sincerely hope she will not be denied achievement in any possible field that she chooses because of her ethnicity. The reaction that Miss America got on twitter made me think. When me and my husband decided to move to canada , one of the primary objectives was to provide for better opportunities for our family. Being a person of indian origin and because of the colour of her skin my daughter will always be identified first as an Indo-canadian and her upbringing in Canada would also separate her from the kids growing up in India who are immersed in the culture and know the nuances of the place. It is a tough place to be in for a child. She will have to forge a new sense of belonging and identity for herself which is based on principles and beliefs greater than the colour of her skin and the place of her birth. My sincere wish for her is that where she comes from would not stand in the way of what she can reach or aspire to be.
I am striving to strike a healthy balance between teaching her about the country of my birth and the country of her birth. I do not want her to be ignorant of her roots but I also do not want her to be so focused in the past that she misses what the future holds for her. Only time will tell how successful I am in my attempts but as of now I am presenting her with the choices and praying that she would make well informed decisions.
I love India and it will forever be in my heart and I consider my self welcomed and accepted in this country as well. Although I was not born here, I feel a sense of respect and love for the place I cannot measure or even give an explanation for. It is hard to imagine what I could say if ever I was asked to explain my connection to my adopted country. While I am here, I think I would borrow words from miss Davuluri herself and strive to ‘celebrate diversity through cultural competency’.