Snapshot Multicultural Biography

Race, to me, is defined by the way one’s physical appearance seems to classify them as part of a larger group that shares these physical features.  In reference to me, it is clear that my race is Indian (distinguished in the eyes of any person from Asian, but not in most forms and such) by my brown skin and eyes, black hair and other visible features not often seen in those of other races, primarily Caucasians.  On the other hand, ethnicity is more directly defined by cultural heritage and ancestry.  This for me is more obviously Indian, as my parents moved to the US from India when they were much younger.  This is distinguished from race in my experience because my physical appearance is different from that of the average person most people consider Indian: my skin is lighter and I don’t share some common Indian traits.  This has often caused me to be thought to be Middle Eastern or Latino, something which I don’t find offensive, but which can cause problems when I travel or am perceived by others.  My race has caused me worries in such situations as at airport security, but often comes up as both an advantage and disadvantage for my future.  One of Peggy McIntosh’s statements is “I can think over many options, social, political, imaginative or professional, without asking whether a person of my race would be accepted or allowed to do what I want to do.”  While it encourages me that there are an increasing number of Indians succeeding in the industry that I want to enter (software): The IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology) have, for the past few years, consistently been the tenth highest recipient of first round seed funding for social ventures, being the only university outside of the US on the list, and even the success of some Indians in politics, such as Bobby Jindal.  However, the one thing that I must note is that, oftentimes, these successful Indians are Christians.  One thing I associate heavily with my race is my Hindu religion.  I don’t want to give that up because it isn’t something accepted by the majority.  This directly relates to another of McIntosh’s related statements: “I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the “person in charge”, I will be facing a person of my race.”  Unless I’m in a place that is obviously Indian, like an Indian store or restaurant, this is almost never the case.  Personally, this often makes me feel more comfortable.  I feel like other Indians are more likely to judge me for who I am more than white people.  Nevertheless, it also means that there are sometimes problems I encounter that these people in leadership positions either don’t understand or blame on my race.  Fortunately, this isn’t too common, so, though it poses an occasional disadvantage, it isn’t constant.  Fortunately, due to the circumstances in which I have grown up, one of McIntosh’s statements which is particularly important is fully true for me: “I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.”  This is something which some races face problems with, but from my experiences and observations, certainly not Indians.  That is something I am very glad for, and consider myself at an advantage for in terms of my race.

Gender is whether someone considers themselves male or female, or something else entirely, particularly in the context of the many connotations that this holds in modern American society.  I see my gender as something that will definitely serve as an advantage in my life, as it allows me to have access to many career options and social experiences that aren’t accessible to women.  Sexual orientation is something connected to this: the gender to which a person is attracted.  Being heterosexual, I once again see my sexual orientation as an advantage in that I don’t face discrimination in most situations based on it, as compared to those of other sexual orientations.  The most interesting statement by McIntosh that I see regarding this is “I can be casual about whether or not to listen to another person’s voice in a group in which s/he is the only member of his/her gender,” where race is changed to gender.  I believe that the way the male gender has come to be seen in American society, we have the full capability to be casual about ignoring a woman or a person of another gender in a group, yet are less comfortable doing the opposite.  Similarly, should we be put in a similar situation as the person being discriminated against here, we tend not to face the same sort of discrimination, based on the views forced on these other people by society.  While this is an immense advantage in terms of my opportunities, it is one of those aspects of privilege that makes me feel very guilty.

Socio-economic class is the amount of money one makes as compared to the general strata of society.  For example, this is generally divided up as Upper, Middle and Lower Class.  I view myself as a member of the Upper Middle Class, as my dad makes a good amount of money.  Thus, I have access to many opportunities that help define my identity that many others do not, such as a private education, a house in a nice suburban area, the opportunity to travel far, wide and often, and the capability to not have to worry about paying for higher education.  An adapted version of one of McIntosh’s statements that applies to my perception of the advantages/disadvantages of this is here: “I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my socio-economic class widely represented.”  The case here is that, in terms of politics and business, yes, it is most definitely the segment of my population that tends to be most highly represented in the media, but not in terms of social change and more of what we tend to consider news, such as crime and welfare and such.  This tends to be a disadvantage, as it has the potential to significantly disconnect the class to which I belong from the rest of the population.  We don’t understand what they experience and thus the changes that our opportunity allows us to make that we must to positively affect them.  Of course, this isn’t to say that we aren’t subject to other advantages, as mentioned above, but it is certainly something I often think about.

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