Last evening I sat down for dinner with an old friend by huge glass windows that overlooked the patio of the eatery we were at. Unfolding her napkin gently, she laid it across her lap and nibbled on her dinner. I dug in with gusto punctuating my conversation with references to the momentous route K and I were on. She squealed with delight, hugged and wished me well. We went on to talk some more. After an hour and half of catching up, I reluctantly made my way home.
The drive back was slow and filled with thoughts. Of color. Of disturbing thoughts. In my references to the child we will eventually adopt, I found myself harping on our reasons. I was surprised to see how much color played a part of it. Not too white, not too dark, somewhere in the middle I said. She smiled and said ‘Olive’. It sounded perfect. This conversation would have been probably normal with any of my desi friends. After all we grew up with references like this. This post by Phillygrrl on Sepia Mutiny touched a chord.
Going back to what I was saying, there we sat, a white blond haired woman and me an ‘olive’ black haired Indian. We sat there talking of skin color and racial heritage. Many times in the conversation, I felt apologetic for my choice of words. Yet, I was saying nothing wrong. A conversation that would have been normal with K or Akay or my sister suddenly felt strange. I was trying to be politically correct all the time. This is not about racism or preference of lighter skin tone over darker but it does graze the edges. The problem definitely was with me.
Driving home, I probed into my psyche. Why is it that I am conscious of what I say when I am around people of a different race or nationality? Shouldn’t friends be friends no matter where each person is from? Is this just the beginning of a huge series of adjustments I am to make in my life?
How or where does one start? I have prided myself on my ability to be fair. To be equal. Yet, there are parts of me that are so seeped in old notions that they shock me on occasion. I have cringed when people around me talk about racism against them. I have chosen to believe it lies in perception and that people are inherently good.
A simple conversation with no racial overtones brought about an avalanche of thoughts. I have been processing it for over a day now. I have no answers but I am glad I am thinking about it.