The following speech was delivered by Misa Patel ’18 during Chapel on Tuesday, October 25.
Age 5: The Fair and Lovely
Thanks to my mother’s unfortunate choice to marry my father, a slightly darker-skinned man, I had inherited darker skin. I was constantly told that it was a problem. My mother has spent hundreds of dollar with skin whitening products all in the effort to whiten my color. There is an Indian saying that if I was whiter, the better my life would be. Guess they were right.
Age 8: So you are Native American, right?
Ms. Stewart, my Polish teacher with white hair who wrote everything in cursive told us we were going to be reading about Indians. She meant the Native Americans and I was clearly confused once again. All the kids asked if I had a bow and arrow and why the Indians in the books never wore cloths. I thought of everything I knew about Indians and how were wore Saris, did henna for holidays like Holi, and wore bangles was all wrong. Clearly, these history books had no idea what they were talking about.
Age 10: Hannah Montana
If you didn’t know the lyrics “The Climb” by Hannah Montana, who are you? Growing up, she was my favorite celebrity. I desperately wanted to look like her. She had blonde hair and blue eyes; things I could never obtain. For years I felt ugly. No one on television ever looked like me and if they did they were showcased as unattractive and intelligent.
Age 12: The bad grade
I simply was lazy and had forgotten to study for my history test. Somehow I managed to get a high C. My teacher knew this was not expected and said, “I know your kind and your people. You Indians don’t get low grades.” Well I guess teaching me to believe in stereotypes was her job.
Age 14: Welcome to Shattuck-St. Mary’s
When I first got to the St. Mary’s dorms, I struggled to move my suitcase up the dorm stairs. When I finally reached the top I was greeted and spoken to super slowly and then asked, “So what part of India did you come from?” I laughed and said I was from New Jersey and the greeter was taken aback by my ability to speak English so well.
Age 16: Now
I am starting to understand that my color might cause me to be discriminated against. However, I will refuse to allow society to oppress me. I will rise above stereotypes. I have chosen to not get angry but rather to educate ignorance and the many forms it comes in. Most importantly, I have learned to love my skin tone unconditionally.