As a Christian, Asian (specifically Indian), female I have been subjected to quite a number of stereotypes/stereotypical comments. A few years ago when I realized that I wanted to be a journalist, I told people so. I remember one specific instance when I told someone I wanted to pursue journalism as a career and they asked me, with a straight face, whether my parents would approve of me being a journalist and not a doctor or a lawyer. While I didn’t think a lot of that question at the time and just told the person who asked me that my parents never had and never would dictate my life and my choices, I realized later that that question was a little bit offensive and stereotypical. However, a few weeks ago when I told an Indian family member of my career choice, they immediately asked me if that was a smart decision or not. When I asked them to elaborate further, they simply said that Journalism was “not as noble a career as being a doctor or lawyer would be.” This incident jarred me into realizing the fact that people can be stereotyped against by people in their own ethnicity as well.
Over the years as I’ve told more Indian family friends of my choice, I’ve a had a mixture of reactions. Most people turned away from me uninterested and focused more on my brother, who for a period of time was considering being a humanitarian lawyer. Very few people have ever showed an interest in my career choice or encouraged me to achieve my goals, however, when my brother told them of his choice, he received unending words of encouragement.
I’ve encountered various other instances where my ethnicity has been used as the only thing that defines me. A friend back home continually referred to me as “IT expert.” Another friend was proud that they had a friend who was Indian and referred to me as “[their] Indian friend” and not by my name. My name, as someone told me once, is “a White name.” When I told someone I was born in India, they asked me whether I was adopted by white parents because I came from poverty.
As a future journalist, I know my race and the color of my skin will affect how I am perceived by the world. However I will choose to not let it affect the quality of my work. In fact this will just give me more motivation to do better and not cater to such stereotypes. So here’s to not being defined by my ethnicity.