by Kamya Sud
Following the rousing protests, speeches, hunger strikes (and consequent resignation of Dean Spellman), dialogues and forums over the past week or so, attempts to rectify institutionalized race issues seem to have to been made. Students and administration of the Claremont Colleges have been collaborating in order to provide a safer and more accepting environment for students of color on campus. Despite being a passionate supporter of the movement now, I will admit that I initially found myself somewhat lost in the whole issue.
I’m an international student. I was born and have lived the past eighteen years of my life in the crowded, colorful, and cosmopolitan city of Mumbai in India. While the city is filled with people from all over the country, of different socioeconomic classes and different religions and moral values, almost everyone is Indian. There aren’t many immigrants and practically everyone shares a similar skin pigmentation. Perhaps because that’s all I’ve ever known, I’ve understandably never experienced any sort of discrimination based on my ethnicity. Until now.
I’ve always known that I am Indian, but my ethnicity hasn’t been as apparent to me until I travelled 33 hours across the globe to land in a place teeming with diversity. Whenever I overheard or participated in conversations about race, I subconsciously didn’t consider myself to be on the marginalized side of the spectrum. Hearing the phrase “people of color” always conjured up images of minorities across the US in my mind, even Indians, but never exactly myself. It was always a feeling of, “Oh, this is such an issue for marginalized groups – THEM.” Subconsciously, I’ve always dissociated myself from people of color and THEIR issues.
I’m going to be as vague as possible with details, but since coming to Claremont, I’ve been called “foreigner” and “you people” to my face. People have assumed that I don’t speak English, ride to school on an elephant, or don’t know anything about anything, and that I only hang out with other Indians. Incidents like this abruptly brought me to terms with who I am. I am a person of color. I am a minority here. I need adequate representation and equal unbiased treatment. I have just as much reason to be here as anyone else. And I need changes to be made at these campuses for people like me, people of color.