I look at her. She looks at me. She is white. I am obviously not.
And even though she’s funny, smart, and loves Octavia Butler the same way I do, I am left to wonder, while she’s reading the menu, Am I attracted to her as a person, or to what her whiteness can mean? Am I a hypocrite?
Yes, these are the questions that pile into my head while on a date. Fortunately, I don’t allow these thoughts to boil over. Still, they remain hovering like an anvil, and as I turn 28 and Valentine’s is right around the corner, the reality of meeting someone who I might spend the rest of my life with looms.
My parents didn’t raise me to believe I had to end up with someone from our community of Bengali-Brahmin-Indian-Americans. Although they have their conservative moments, they’ve always been supportive of my own ideas on what’s important in a partner.
Which shouldn’t be a surprise as the country continues to evolve. In an article published by the Pew Research Center, “in 2013, a record-high 12% of newlyweds married someone of a different race, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of census data.”
Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that our society is open to all types of pairings. For instance, in the online dating world, black men and women receive the lowest response rates to their messages.
Despite my own parents and friends, I am also aware of how some South-Asian Americans view interracial relationships as only possible between us and someone white.
In The Namesake, the main character Gogol dates a white woman, and after deciding to become more “cultural” decides to marry a “Bengali girl” instead. As if those were his only two options. Of course, this plot, like many others, imply that white represents the standard American, and brownness is the perpetual outsider trying to fit in.
Even in shows that are progressive like Master of None, this story line is clear.
The only instance of black and brown love on the big screen is Mira Nair’s Mississippi Masala, which is about a South Asian family exiled from Uganda. They try to rebuild their lives in Mississippi, where their daughter falls for a black American man played by Denzel Washington. The movie remains a favorite of mine because it refuses to give into stereotype and reveals the tension between the black and South Asian communities.
So, I return to my original question:
Am I a hypocrite?
Like I said, I am not oblivious to how Desis revere light-skin. The “Indian whitening cream market is expanding at the rate of nearly 18% a year.” Even Indian actors and actresses have been in commercials for such products. These beliefs are worldwide, and affect the diaspora.
Knowing all this, I’ve typically dated within POC communities. I’ve even actively avoided Indian-Americans and Hindu-Americans. And only recently have I dated anyone white.
But a connection is a connection, right?
I honestly don’t have an answer and I don’t think I will for a while, or until I meet the “one.” Until then, I think the most important thing to do is to stay conscious of biases and prejudice.
For now, I’ll go out, order food, watch a movie, share some laughs.
For now, I will be mindful that she is before me.
That she see me. And I see her as well.
Fun Fact: Kamala Harris, attorney general of California and candidate for senator, has a Jamaican father and Indian mother. She’s awesome by the way.