Nine months and 23 identification checks later, I’m tired of getting asked where I’m from and where my ID is. I’m annoyed by the grocery store security guard asking me if I’m going to purchase the things I have in my cart whenever I stop in the store to think about what else I am forgetting on my list. I’m annoyed by the police officer who picks me out of my group of white friends and asks for my ID. I’m annoyed by the police officer who asks me where I’m going on a Sunday morning walk to the park and asks to see my ID.
These stops have made me question what people see when they look at me. Getting humiliated on the street by authorities has shown me that for some people, I’m just another “brown” person who could be a terrorist or a criminal. When I show the police officers my passport, they always seem surprised that I’m from the US and not from India because of my skin color and appearance. It’s not only insulting, but it also shows me that their image of what an American person could look like is narrow. I understand that for many people, I might be the first person of color they’ve ever met or seen, but this does not give anyone the right to question my nationality or assume I’m a criminal.
At the beginning I felt ostracized by these encounters, but I’m sad to say I’ve gotten so used to it that I feel despondent. I want to know what can be done to help these officers understand that each time they stop me or another person of color, they are reinforcing the stereotypes we all deal with on a daily basis.
I’m a first-generation Indian American. I grew up in a diverse township in New Jersey. I never thought about people singling me out for my skin color or family background. I had my fair share of getting made fun of, especially because I was what they called a “geek.” I got made fun of for wearing glasses, called “four eyes,” for always having braids in my hair, and for having “weird” food like idlis for lunch. Looking back, I was naive in thinking that these comments weren’t targeted toward my family background. I didn’t think much about why people said the things they did to me.
http://www.vox.com/first-person/2016/12/15/13952790/racial-profiling-america-germanySeveral times while I was out reporting, I was told by people I’d interview on the street and in trailer parks, “I don’t speak your language, honey, so don’t bother wasting your time here,” or, “I don’t speak Hindu, sorry.” I also had a guy pull out his gun when I approached his lawn, after he shouted, “Your kind don’t belong here.”
At first, I was angry at these people. Soon, I felt bad for them because they didn’t know anything else but their small bubble of white people.
The color of my skin was speaking for me. It didn’t matter that I am a US citizen. It was the fact I had a strange name that they choked on to pronounce and prompted them to ask if I had a nickname. And the fact I didn’t look like what they thought was “American” since they never saw a brown-skinned person in their life.
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