I am tired.
A reflection upon the lived experience as a woman of color at Predominately White Institutions.
My name is Anusha. I am 21, and I identify as female.
What am I you ask? I’m not sure what you mean, a college student? I respond.
Not the answer you were looking for, you say? I know. I’ve been through this, I’m just trying to push your boundaries. It’s not the answer anyone is really looking for.
Well, I was born in America, I respond, still testing the waters.
Satisfied? Not yet? Didn’t think so.
You continue to pursue: Where is my family from? A suburb of Chicago, I respond. Your eyes hint that I’m getting under your skin. Okay Anusha, your fun is over.
I know these aren’t the answers that will satisfy your implicit question.
I finally comply with your request: My brown skin is from India.
Better now? I assumed so. You begin to talk about how “exotic” India seems and if I’ve ever ridden an elephant or begin to ask me about how long our weddings are. I nod and smile at everything you seem to know about the country I am from, almost seemingly more confident in your knowledge than I am.
I am brown. I am Indian. I am female.
My name is Anusha.
This is how my introductions go when first meeting someone, but the only words I actually utter are my name.
Growing up going to predominantly white institutions and being surrounded by people who were confused by the way I looked, I have had to grow up being an activist. I have grown up being seen as a speaker for every person of color’s experiences around me.
But all of these people carry different burdens, different obstacles, different struggles than I do, because we are not all the same minority.
We are not all the same minority.
We have never been the same minority.
We have said this countless amounts of times, but it is too hard for so many to comprehend that my skin encases a different story than the Black girl next to me, than the Native boy across from me.
I have grown up being seen as the poster child to promote diversity on this campus, but I only ever make the sides of the photograph as the colored companion to my fellow white stars.
And I am so tired of it.
When I was in second grade, a young boy gave me the nickname “Brownie.” I cried in front of the class as the nickname caught on, and yet my middle class white female teacher told me “they don’t mean anything by it”
From that day forward, I made sure to never let something like that get to me.
15 years later and it still gets to me.
When my friends and I would walk down the aisles in a store they would point to the dark skinned dolls and call them “Anusha.” We would all laugh until something new piqued our attention.
When I went to dinner the waiter would single me out and ask me why I wasn’t smiling, asking me why I looked so angry, completely negating my white female counterparts who were portraying the same bored visage upon their faces.
I wasn’t any angrier than them. My skin was just darker.
When I got accepted into college and got bigger scholarships than my white counterparts they would look me up and down in utter confusion and then come to the simple conclusion, one that everyone was thinking:
“You CLEARLY got that much money because you’re brown.”
When I came to college and I got opportunities and was individually asked to do things it was like a reoccurring nightmare, those closest to me, those whose opinions I hold dearly and respect with such pride and honesty looked me in the eyes, chuckled, and stated
“You know why you got that right?” Looking down at my brown skin.
Completely negating the fact that I’ve worked hard for every opportunity I’ve come across.
Completely negating the fact that I’ve stayed up hours of the night making sure I do well.
Completely negating the fact that they’ve seen me endure hell and back to overcome adversity.
Completely negating everything about me except my skin.
I am merely surviving day to day. Your promises of “better diversity” or attempt to “comprehend my lived experiences” mean nothing to me when at the end of the day you still choose to be upset when I get something that you did not and then blame it on my “advantage” due to the color I am.
I am so glad your diversity or attempt at it makes you feel better and courageous.
I am so glad you feel like an ally when you stand up for me when you hear someone say something blatantly racist.
I am so glad you are proud of yourself.
It’s taken me 21 years to be proud of my skin.
When would you like to sit down and understand that part?
You choose to see the story my skin shows you, when would you like to hear the story that I have lived?