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Recently I’ve been reflecting on my time in the US. I lived there until I was 15, until 2008. I go to college there, obviously, but for the time being my home is still in India.
Yesterday, my dad and I were talking. We don’t really talk that much about personal things, but this particular conversation was in light of the gurudwara shooter in Wisconsin. We lived in Brookfield, WI for 2.5 years (1996-1998, approx) and again for 5 years (2003-2008). Dad was telling me about how, when we lived there the first time, our group of friends was primarily non-desi. We lived in a mostly white neighborhood, and it was easiest to make friends with the neighbors. There would be barbecues and carpools and what have you.
The second time we moved to Brookfield, we lived in a different neighborhood. Still white. The same type of people. But, after living there for 5 years, I can’t remember being friends with, or even being friendly towards, any of the people in the neighborhood. My parents had only desi friends. Well, almost only. There were the parents of my school friends, but those were few and far between.
For 5 years, the people who my parents associated with were largely Indians who lived all over area, while about a decade previous to that, they were friends with white people who lived in the same neighborhood.
I’m sure there are many reasons for this shift. But my dad was adamant, and I was quick to agree, that one of the main reasons was 9/11. My family isn’t Muslim. We are from India. We have no religion (dad’s an atheist, mum and. But we have brown skin. 9/11 changed a lot of things. I know uncles who cut their hair and stopped wearing turbans. I know families who gave their kids American nicknames. I know that Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus … Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis… desis are far from accepted and treated as equals in the US. Some places are more than accepting, which I love. My college is one of them. But then you see mosques burning and people shooting other people because they have brown skin and wear turbans…
When will this stop? Unfriendliness to neighbors is tolerable at best. Shooting at a place of worship is horrific and absolutely unacceptable. When will this end?