Graduate Student

College of Liberal Arts

Asian, Indian

“I had studied race theory and loudly protested against white supremacy in theoretical terms back home in India, but nothing could have prepared me for the subtleties of racism, when experienced first hand. I’ve had someone (most probably another graduate student) yell at me in the bathroom: “learn to lock that door; didn’t they teach you the basics where you come from?” (I hadn’t realised that the latch hadn’t gone in all the way). I’ve noticed other white students feel awkward around me and not know how to engage with me because I didn’t easily fit their bracket of an ‘international’ student — didn’t need hand holding, didn’t have “language problems”, could hold my own in classroom discussions (so, wasn’t the reticient student they expect all international students to be), was articulate about my politics and ideological positions. I’ve had a peer, in a car ride, tell me that she “just isn’t attracted to black or brown men.” I asked her, trying to be ironic, “how she felt about brown women (since I am), and she proceeded to add homophobia to her racism and declare “Ewwww. Are you hitting on me? Coz, if you are I might have to ask you to leave my car.” I’ve had another white student complain to me about how only middle eastern men hit on her, and “while she doesn’t have a problem with that, she would like to be asked out by some ‘regular’ guys.” I’ve had white (usually male) professors look blankly in my direction when I’ve tried to make a point, and go out of their way to laud some pretty banal stuff coming from white students. I’ve had another colleague (who was also, for a short time my roommate) ask me why I wasn’t buying plastic bags for the dustbin in my bathroom (a bathroom I didn’t share with her) because “here in America they liked to line their dustbins with platic bags.” I said that I just use the plastic bags we’d collect from our grocery shopping in my dustbins. And she looked a little embarassed and said, “I don’t know…I’m just asking…not everyone has the same hygiene standards as ‘us’.” I have seen bus drivers invariably yell at international students and respond rudely to their queries — neither of which they do to white students. I’ve had a white student tell me she feels uncomfortable learning from me because I’m not a Christian and don’t share a value system. I’ve had students discuss a graphic novel about race and lynching in which, invariably, half the class (and this half is always white) says that that black man that was lynched was acting too big for his boots and so got himself into trouble with the KKK. In short, he had it coming because he provoked the KKK, and should have known better than to go into their territory and try to pass as white. I’ve had an erstwhile close friend tell me she “wants to slap Chinese stuents with cars because they’re such terrible drivers”, another tell me that most of the contagious diseases on campus come with international students who spend time at airports and therefore carry germs with them. Ok, so….basically, the list is too too long :)”

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