Marika Oakland, CA People often ask me “What are you?” or “Where are you from?” which is par for the course for people like me who are ambiguously brown looking, which is how I’ve come to refer to myself. Over time I’ve noticed my attitude toward other people who ask these questions changing. I used […]
Adrienne Zimiga, Minneapolis, MN. I was born and raised on the Pine Ridge reservation my first 12 years. Upon moving from Batesland, SD to Castlewood, SD my caucasian grandmother was concerned that my brothers, sister, and I could face social problems being part Native American (iyeska: mixed blood/race) in an all white community. She told […]
M.H. Culley, CA. It is sad that my Indian Elders and Ancestors were taught to be so ashamed of being Indian that they tried to protect their descendents by not teaching us their songs and language. This is even more painful because in the 20th century out tribe was declared extinct by a white bureaucrat […]
Danielle Fernandez, Trumbull, CT. I’m Indian, but born in Zimbabwe. I always greet the question of “what is your background?” with a little sigh, and then gear up for the long explanation. Thankfully, in my area, the response is usually “that’s cool.”
Rebecca Schwarzlose, Roayl Oak, MI. I am white and my husband is Indian. My daughter has my husband’s complexion. When we are together as a family people assume that she’s mixed but when I’m out with my daughter alone (which is most of the time) everyone assumes that she’s adopted. People ask me where she’s […]
Lucie C., San Antonio, TX. I was born in Texas just this side of the river. I’ve lived in Texas all my life although I’ve traveled a lot. One day while traveling through the Texas Hill Country, a gentleman, perhaps Pakistani perhaps Indian (I know NOT to call person either because I might be off […]
Amanda Baran, Arlington, VA. “No, I’m not Mexican. Nope, not Latino. I’m an American who’s half Syrian and half Indian. Well actually, my father’s former nationality was Syrian. His parents were refugees from Turkey who were expelled during the Armenian genocide. No, they weren’t Armenian, they were Christians who were forced out and into Syria […]
Lise (rhymes with ‘please’), Austin, TX. My 6-word essay was originally “What kind of name is that?”– a question (both the polite and impolite versions) I’m regularly asked. My answer is something like this: “Well, my last name is Indian (yes, like from India)–sort of. My father’s family is from India, but the name changed […]
Shelly Watson, Bethel Acres, OK. When I was a teenager, other American Indians used to call me Apple.
Poonam Dreyfus-Pai, Berkeley, CA. It wasn’t easy to choose just one sentence (6 words, no less) to summarize the constant negotiation between frustration and a sort of mirthless humor that I experience when dealing with questions about my race and ethnicity. On the most basic level, “Hindu” is a religious identity — not a race, […]
Nicole, New Orleans, LA. Black women are so obsessed with their hair that it can totally consume their life… “I can’t get in the pool ‘cuz I can’t get my hair wet”. “Girl, I can’t work out and sweat and mess up my hair”. “I can’t buy that. I gotta pay to get my hair […]
Sam, Morris, MN. I have a grandfather that is fully Native American, from the White Earth Tribe. So my mother is ¼ Native American, and I am less than ¼. My father is mostly German. So I have fairly light skin, and my hair is light brown. In most situations I consider myself Caucasian and […]
Shirin Akhter, Philadelphia, PA. When I tell other that I am Asian, they don’t believe me because they think my skin color is a little dark or my eye shape or the way I talk. I am west asian, i am from the west side of asia. All asians don’t look alike, we don’t have […]
Nisha Balaram, Oakland, CA. My dad would joke around, saying that my mom couldn’t help but fall in love with him when she first saw him. My mom was usually busy in the kitchen at the time, and would smile and roll her eyes in response to his comment; when the pungent scent of lentils […]
Elizabeth, Denver, CO. My mother is mixed race, Indian and white. She grew up pretty poor, but she told me once that she always had two pairs of shoes: one pair of moccasins and one pair of boots. Depending on who her father was trading with she would either have to pull on her boots, […]
Krishna Ghodiwala, Washington, DC. I am an Indian American woman who was born in Canada, immigrated to the US at the age of 3, and went on to receive an excellent education that has helped me pursue a successful career in US politics and issue advocacy. My Indian heritage is a big part of my […]
Tanya Rao, Shrewsbury, MA.
Silvija Singh, Pittsburgh, PA. Unlike my sibs, I do not look white, altho I have a white mother. I do not get treated like a Latvian, the way the blond-haired blue-eyed cousins on this side of the family do. Complexion-wise, I look more like my father, who was from India. But among Indians, I am […]
Josie H Australia I am a Catholic Indian. The middle school I went to was not Catholic, and when I graduated into high school (which was Catholic), I ended up in the top Religion class, getting 80% + in all my tests. One day,a boy asked me disbelievingly, “You went to a non-Catholic primary school? […]
Jennifer Kerkow Chaska, MN I’m mostly Scottish and German but Im around 1/4 Indian. I feel like I cant fully embrace it and claim it because it isnt the majority of my heritage, although its a part of me that I love. When my great grandparents came to America (from Poland) they didn’t take the […]
Ezra Rosser Washington, DC Biligaana is a Navajo/Dine word that means “white, other, or the enemy.” I grew up in part on the Navajo Nation where my non-Indian parents worked and where my father still lives.
David Duncan San Antonio, TX Our father would never disclose the full specific reasons for his anger regarding the Trail of Tears and the treatment of the Cherokee people. He talked of land granted his father being stolen by an overseer appointed because ‘Indians’ could not be trusted to manage their own property. His father […]
Nayna Sasidharan Arlington, VA That asked within the first few minutes of meeting someone
Rahul Iyer Mesa, AZ Not Really Indian, American Born Desi is what could be used to describe me. Not Really Indian (NRI) is a term that is often coined to describe people of Asian Indian background who were born outside of India. The actual legal term used by the Indian Government is Nonresident Indian (NRI). […]
Inchara Carmel, IN Whenever I met someone new, the first two minutes of our conversation was how to pronounce my name and what it meant. I dreaded roll call when there was a substitute teacher. At times, they’d skip my name entirely, making me feel left out. Both non-Indian and Indian people had trouble pronouncing […]
Jennifer Kerkow Chaska, MN Im Scottish, German, and Indian. It was my Great grandfather who was indian and I love it and want to embrace it and claim it but im told my people I cant because it isn’t a large part of my DNA though you can see it in me.
Raj Merchant Philadelphia, PA Hey my name is Raj Merchant. I am Indian so technically I am Asian. I am a high school student, and I go to a magnet school called Central High School of Philadelphia. My grandfather said this line when I was going over the thing that were on the PSAT. When […]
Donovan Holder, Ft. Lauderdale, FL. In South Florida, I am a chameleon. Mother is white, Dad is Jamaican. But my skin is the exact same color as my Latino friends, my Indian friends, my light skinned Black friends, and my Muslim friends. I am all of them, yet none of them. This is why my […]
ANNA GRASSI Cremona, Italy My husband ( German ) and I ( Italian ) adopted an Indian-born daughter. We live in Italy. It is not always easy to make people understand that we are a family: adoption and different skin colours make us “very perculiar”. Why did we parents choose a girl so different from […]
Sharmila Patel Portsmouth, NH With such a common last name, most new people I meet will ask me if I am related to or know, their Indian friend. They are typically doctors, engineers, college friends, etc.
Sonya Williams, Baltimore, MD. I grew up in a unique area of North Carolina in what is referred to as a ti-racial community. My Indian family are the Cheroenhaka Nottoway and Meherrin Indians of Southeast, VA & North Eastern, NC. When I went to college, during a lecture in my anthropology class, the professor was […]
Valerie Sathe Brugeman MI
Bari Goodblood Lehn Wetzel County, WV Born to a Santee Sioux mother and a German father in the Midwest. They met and married when she was relocated to the city as part of termination policy for reservation Indians in the 1950’s. Four babies later, for reasons I never knew, she left us, taking with her […]
Barbara Rodriguez, Florence, SC. Yes, they both are Cuban. The look of shock never ceases to amaze me. Is it because I’m blonde and have green eyes…yes! Is it because of where I live…yes! Growing up in New York, everyone I knew could tell me about their heritage. My neighborhood was a perfect melting pot […]
Courtney Randolph Norfolk, VA I’m actually Native American. I hate this phrase. So generalizing.
(Ms.) Kamakshi P. Murti Fairfax, VA I have been a citizen of the US for several decades, yet whenever I am in a public space, the question invariably arises, especially when I speak English with my ‘original’ Indian accent: “Where are you from?”
Basundhara Mukherjee South Burlington, VT I was born in India, lived in Saudi Arabia, and grew up mostly in a small town in Vermont. English is in my blood, just like Bengali. When someone asks me why my English is so good, it reminds me of the ignorance that still, unfortunately, exists in this country. […]
Neil A. Sookdeo Baltimore, MD With six degrees, four from grad schools in the USA, I cannot compete fairly to teach African or Caribbean history in which I have a Johns Hopkins doctorate. I have NOT even experienced such race hate even in apartheid South Africa because I look Asian. I know fear feeds racism. […]
Ngina wa Kaai Canada While this wasn’t said to me directly, it was said by a white coworker to a child of Indian heritage while teaching them swimming. It was a stupid thing to say, but it made me think about the fact that there were numerous swim instructors of colour on our staff (including […]
Kavita Charleston, SC As an Indian-American woman working in agriculture, I used to frequently get some variation of this comment when I sold at farmers’ markets. Really? Should I thank you for that comment?
Renu Gehring Portland, OR I am an ethnically Indian woman married to a white man. Our two kids are a happy blend of brown and white. We live in a community that has a large number of recent Indian immigrants. I am surprised by their reaction when they see me with my children. When they […]
Maranda Compton Denver, CO For most of society, the American Indian is conceived of as strictly an historical figure. People maintain images of Tonto or the Crying Indian walking alongside the highway in buckskin and feathers. And if they do allow the Indian to exist in modernity, he or she is relegated to an impoverished, […]
Radhika Guruju Chandler, AZ Education is what helped us get to this country and therefore for most Asian Indian families it still remains the top goal for their children, and education at a Ivy league school is what the focus is on starting as early as 7th grade. Study hard and develop a work ethic […]
Stefanie Bernosky, Houston, TX. I was raised as an All-American girl to an All-American family in an All-American town. I even looked “All-American”, proudly featuring my braces and American Flag sweater in this dated family photo (circa 1994). We can trace my family (both sides) to the United States prior to the United States Revolution. […]
Susan Fentin Conway, MA My son and his wife had their first child in April 2010, a beautiful brown-eyed baby girl with a head full of dark brown hair, whom they named Laila. Her complexion was a delightful coffee color, a blend of her dad’s fair coloring and her mother’s Indian ancestry. Since I knew […]
Ronald Hill Grove Hill, PA My biological father was Mexican and split before I was born. The man I call my dad is white. My mother is Native American (Indian), but doesn’t know any of her culture, as my grandmother moved off of the reservation when she was 18. I was raised to look past […]
Danny Thomas Brookfield , WI I am an Indian American and was working in the ED at a children’s hospital. A mother who was angry about the long wait said this to our nurse as she was leaving.
Swapnil Deopurkar Seattle, WA I moved from India to Ann Arbor, Michigan; age 26, male, long hair, parted down the middle and with a pony tail. My first day at the bus stop, started a conversation with an African American undergrad. The conversation abruptly halted with me saying “I am Indian..” and he interrupting “..you […]
Nancy Jane Grimes Smith Pittsfield, IL After being asked most of my life if I was any Indian (Native American) and saying no, mostly Irish, some Scot, And English my mom recently found that she is part Cherokee. I’m thrilled and would welcome DNA testing to find out what else may be part of me.
Joel Rodrigues United Kingdom I am ethnically Indian (from Goa), a Portuguese citizen, was born and grew up in Kuwait & Goa, and have a slightly North American accent. People don’t seem to like not being able to put me in a box and it makes my life a little more complicated than it needs […]
Anonymous USA I’m Indian and Pakistani and often feel left out of the “race discussions” which only involve two races
Rachel Jeske Milwaukee, WI
Anisha Nandi Ann Arbor, MI Understanding Race Project- University of Michigan “I’m half Trinidadian, half Indian; I was born in England but I grew up in New York.” They can wrap their heads around England and New York. They register half-Indian due to the caramel skin tone and dark hair. Yet, I can almost always […]
Harshita Kandarpa Wilmington, DE
Breanna Garcia Bellflower, CA Growing up with people asking what my ethnicity was and just replying I’m Indian. The next question was almost always “forehead dot Indian or feather Indian?”. I would say “neither I’m Native American”.
Freda NC I am African American. Growing up I was often asked this question in some form or another “are you mixed, what are you, what are you mixed with, what’s your nationality, are you Indian, where are you from?” As I got older, the question began to offend me more, especially when the person […]
Anushka Chaughule Hockessin, DE
Sherrill Dawn Koopot Phoenix, AZ …Worried how your baby will look? 41 years ago I married an East Indian Doctor; He was handsome, smart, kind and everything a woman could want. Both of those comments above were made to me, with all seriousness and , I think, with absolute ignorance as to how they sounded. […]
Winsome Chunnu Brayda Athens, OH
William Straub Morris, MN
Shevon Desai Ann Arbor, MI My parents emigrated from India to the US over 50 years ago. In terms of ethnicity, I think of myself as South Asian – but in terms of race, we are officially Caucasian (my family are Parsis – Indian Zoroastrians whose ancestors originally came from Iran). Race and ethnicity for […]
Diana Lockhart Powder Springs, GA
Patrick S. Perkins ID Submitted via: NPR’s Talk of the Nation This is an interesting program and it made me recall an experience with my 4 year old in a grocery store. There was a man of east Indian descent in line behind us and my daughter kept looking at him and looking back at […]