When it comes down to detailing my identity, I feel as if one aspect influences nearly everything. I am brown, or in a less vague narrative, I am an Indian American that shys away from the sun, having an opinion, or doing what I enjoy without the fear of judgment. “Institutionalized rejection of difference” as stated by Audre Lorde has made me fall a victim and perpetrator of “white-washing”. As if stripping away a piece of my culture and appearance to manufacture and promote the ideals of another, releases a sense of comfort in allowing me to blend in with a larger and more dominant force of nature. These methods include trying bleaching cream and having an anxious fit when my skin turns a shade darker. Or making every effort to differentiate myself from the stereotypes that were made available via television or movies. Or to pretend as if the only language I’m fluent in is English. Society has rejected my differences therefore I’ve chosen to take the easy way out by copying the norms of a dominant force.
It wasn’t until I entered a prestigious magnet high school with a history and legacy built on the diversity of its students, did I feel safe behind the confines of a two-story building in the bustling city of Hackensack, New Jersey. Although Bergen Academies gave rise to a minority group (Asian Americans) to be what is considered the majority, I became accustomed and thrived in a community that failed so many subordinates and minorities at the expense of benefitting one. It is crucial to acknowledge that the ways in which Asian Americans gained their acceptance can be attributed to one factor: economic background. I like to call it a purchase of education, in that in order to gain their child an acceptance into one of the most esteemed schools in the state, parents are willing to spend thousands of dollars in tutoring to do so. Yet the conflict arises when most of these parents tend to be Asian or White. Ultimately, discrepancies arise in private education or tutoring services nearly all the time, and I am privileged enough to afford these services and resources to further my education but fail to acknowledge it as likely as I should. Such as, being fortunate enough to seek tutoring facilities after suffering through a day of pre-calculus. Though, Latinos, African-Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans are repeatedly denied the right to higher education as a result of our ignorance as a community.
At 4:10, I find myself on a bus ride home, getting ready to adjust my school-life to my family life. In the confines of my household, I have always found it ironic that my father teaches me while my mom protects me (feeling as if it should be the other way around). During the day, my father stresses the idea of doing our chores and adds a sly comment, “you are girls” after detailing our household responsibilities. It is these microaggressions and enforcements of dominance that creates the notion of historical amnesia in that we become present in a time of chained household wives. Though I can’t blame my father or hold him accountable for his words in that he was raised in a society where women were groomed to meet the needs and wants of their spouses yet he has managed to give my sister and I freedoms that were never made available to my mother and distant family. It’s as if this problem can never be expelled as some act as if misogyny is a deep-rooted necessity that is crucial for the survival and continuity of a culture, social structure, or even nation.
While at night, the TV blares with headlines detailing the horrific atrocities of young girls gone missing or being subject to sexualized aggression. My mom stares at her two daughters with eyes of pain and concern as she gives us “the talk” which thousands of girls have heard before. Sexual aggression against women has become a norm that we fail to recognize in that it’s becoming more common than it ever should to have the place at a kitchen table. Consequently, Kalamu ya Salaam details that“as long as male domination exists, rape will exist. Only women revolting and men made conscious of their responsibility to fight sexism can collectively stop rape.”
After evaluating my own personal identities, it has become clear that many of us have both dominant and subordinate qualities. In this mere 800 word paper, I failed to mention that I am privileged to be heterosexual, to be able-bodied, and to be a middle-class citizen. Yet I fear being rejected by colleges for being Asian, I fear that my gender will allow some to take advantage of me, and I fear that I’m not enough for society’s standards. Only through recognizing one’s privilege and shortcomings, can we successfully combat oppression at all levels (race/ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, age, and physical and mental activity). But that begins with understanding the notion of intersectionality and the ways in which it affects us.
Pooja is a 15 year old from New Jersey that is passionate about socio-political issues. She hopes to raise awareness about these issues through writing, art, and social media.