What it Means to be Indian

When I was growing up, I had no idea what stereotypes were. The idea that a person could classify me based on an experience with a small group of people baffled me (to be honest, it still does). Since leaving Wemrock Brook School to come to Princeton Day School in fifth grade, I have faced stereotypes many times.

I first learned about stereotypes in seventh grade. While still struggling academically to make the transition from a public school to private school education, it became apparent to me that I was not the typical person that American media portrayed Indians to be. I must say that it hurt to realize that I wasn’t contributing to what I was told I was supposed to be. At age 13, I was facing an inner turmoil because I thought I was supposed to be getting straight A’s because I am Indian. I wasn’t aware of the word or idea of a stereotype, and as a result of that, I thought I had to work harder because I am Indian. It was later in the year that I learned about stereotypes and realized that being Indian did not correlate with being smart. From that point on, I started to hear more and more people talk about me, and other Indian people, in a bad light.

Often times, when talking to my friends who still go to public schools, I hear them say the only reason that I got into a private school was because I was Indian. I’m too smart to not be let in. Apparently, my work is not valid because I’m an Asian person and all Asian people are smart. If I call any one of them out when they say that, the response is always that it’s a positive stereotype. I would like to say that is not true, and that if you think it to be true, you should get that idea out of your head.

I can say from personal experience that stereotypes are not good. Imagine being thirteen and thinking that you aren’t a true Indian because you aren’t smart enough. Imagine having to hear, “You should understand this, you’re Indian!” on a daily basis. It hurts to

think many people automatically think you are smart just because you’re Indian. Then, when they see a 70% on a math quiz they make a snide comment about not being a proper Indian. Maybe this concept is difficult for non-Asian people to understand, but this stereotype ripped me apart inside, and it took me four years to get it out of my head.

I still experience stereotypes on almost a daily basis, and it still hurts to hear them, but now I know it’s coming from people who don’t understand what it means to be Indian.

– Written by Carina Dhru (redefy school representatives team)