I have always hated that as a white person I would never be part of a culture and heritage as beautiful as the Indian one and that the history of the white person was one of racism, tyranny, and genocide. I realized today, however, that hating those things had turned into a more basal disgust for the simple color of my skin, and had led to a nasty mixer of ungratefulness, and narcissism
I discovered the change at a religious service my host family and I attended that was led by a transgender woman. When we arrived at the meeting place, a simple house on a back road, it was overflowing with people. Per usual, I was the only white person in the vicinity.
At this service, the guru called people from the audience, discussed his or her current life, character, and future directions, then send that person away with a blessing and a gift. She would also dance from time to time when she was filled with a good spirit. After watching this for an hour, and gleaning what I could from the dialogue, we were asked to stand and receive the guru's wisdom.
When I began making my way to the front, my first thought was "damn, It sucks to be white." That thought cracked through my head, and I immediately realized that the hatred of my skin tone had taken over my anger at being separated from culture and descended from racism. I had been given the honor of receiving a blessing from a teacher and my petulant reflex was to curse the way I was born. I felt guilty the rest of the time I was there; that automatic thought precluded me from fully enjoying the experience I had been given. It was awful.
Not only was I angry at myself for cursing my skin, but I realized that I immediately assumed that I was called up because of my color. This guru had called nearly a third of the audience during the service, this meant regardless of who I was, I had a 33% chance of being called up.
Also, I completely disregarded the relationship my host mother had with this woman. My host mother had met the guru on the second day I was there, and the two had been texting back and forth ever since. We had also gone to see this guru on two other occasions at a Hindu temple where people would stand in line just to talk to her.
I was the only person in the family that this guru could not and did not know; my Punjabi is too broken and accented to communicate well. Yet somehow, I thought I was the reason we were called to the front. I completely disregarded the people around me and in some twisted self-loathing yet narcissistic way took a beautiful experience and laced it with regret.
Since I arrived in India, I have lost my anonymity. People stare at me through the car windows, the local kids call out my name, and I am asked by strangers if they can take pictures with me. I can't hide my whiteness behind other people's anymore, and this isolation has forced me to come to terms with how I was born. I never realized how much I hated my color. It began as a disgust with my ancestors incessant need to dominate, turned to a frustration with the privilege it gave me, and finally to what I have found in India; a rotten mush that no longer resembles the original intent.
I hope I never let go of the injustices my ancestors did to other races, and want that firm grasp on reality to spur me to find new ways to right what has been broken. But today I realized that to do that, I can't hate myself. I am me, and I have to embrace the privilege this world awards to me as a white person. If I keep shying away from it I can never use it to make sure future generations don't have the wage, poverty, or drug use gap that we have between races today.
Elianna DeSota is a young teacher who is obsessed with deep diving into new cultures and ideas. Right now she is on a journey to discover more about India and herself before jumping into the next chapter of her life.