NRI Tips: Race relations of American society for a newcomer
Most of us leave India and go abroad for work or education. There is an ever-growing line of Indians going overseas to find utopia – looking for the land of their dreams. Going abroad is considered the best stroke of luck; every pundit will tell you that your stars are aligned perfectly for a great future overseas! 🙂
However, those pundits may not know everything about your stars or your future. Some may have warned you about the challenges abroad before, but it is hard to believe anything negative about the land of riches with so many promises; many Bollywood movies are witness to the prosperity abroad 🙂 !
The reality is that living overseas is very different from living in India- your own homeland. The overseas society and the culture provide an eye-opening experience for the new immigrants.
India is a multi-cultural society, people with different languages and customs living in a diverse setting; but they all come from the same race for most of the part. American society, on the other hand, not only has different religions and languages, but also different races. The white majority is followed by rest of the minorities- blacks, Hispanics, Indians, Asians and so on. Even though this multi-race society seems to mingle well at work and in many of the social situations, the racial biases can be seen and encountered on a daily basis.
Nothing new so far, right? You probably already knew this from Hollywood movies and the media coverage of global events on daily basis.
The truth is that American society has a very complicated history of race relations and provide a very different kind of experience for an outsider like you and me. Growing up in India, we are very much used to waking up every morning among the people of our own kind, our own skin color, our own language and our own identity. Once we get here, to America or Canada or England…, the whole equation changes overnight. What we took for granted as a norm, – the culture, the language, the attire, the brown skin, the daily customs, and social interactions – this all becomes a foreign concept. You are now a stranger in a new land, a land that looked so familiar from a distance.
To add insult to the injury, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 further impacted our daily experiences. The Indians are confused by many to be part of middle-eastern Muslims. Yes, it is lack of understanding of world religions and geography, but the NRIs and Indians pay the actual consequences of someone else’s ignorance.
There is no doubt that America has come a long way from the days of black slavery to the modern days with a black American President in the White House. The Western countries have made a significant effort over decades to minimize the racial discrimination, to promote the social values based on virtues and not on the skin color. However, the racial biases are here to stay….for a long while. These biases are part of the local culture; these are part of daily lives and normal thinking; these are not going anywhere in our life time, or probably the life time of the next generation.
So yes, there is a silver-lining we should not overlook. These biases are slowly – yes, very slowly – fading with time. If we have the right mind-set and attitude against racial biases, we can do our part in promoting a culture of racial equality; we can make our contribution toward a society based on values and virtues. Every little bit counts.
Oh, and in the mean time, while we try to get accustomed to the racial dynamics abroad, let us not forget who we are and where we come from – a very different culture, a very different race!
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- Being Indian abroad, II