Aslesha: STOP AAPI HATE Blog

In 2004, my parents immigrated to the United States from India, looking for a future of success and promise. Only a year later, I was born as the first American citizen in my family. It was difficult trying to find a balance between my Indian roots and American heritage. I was either considered too “white-washed” or too cultured. For a long time, I struggled with my identity and sense of belonging.

On my third day of second grade, I was faced with the first of many racist encounters in my life. Well, the first I can remember, at least. A group of young girls were sitting at a table, and when I asked if I could sit with them, I was mocked and told to go find somewhere else to sit. For most of my elementary schooling, I was looked down on by my peers for eating food or wearing clothes of my ethnic descent. I began to feel insecure about those things and soon lost touch with my culture.

Looking back at it now, I see how unfortunate it is that things turned out the way they did. While I choose to live my life without regrets, I do wish nobody else has to go through that. After moving schools and allowing myself to rebuild connections with my culture, I’m at a place where I love where I’m from. Today, I’m the treasurer of the Indian Cultural Student Association at my high school and work every day to help other kids fall in love with their culture, the same way I was able to.

When this pandemic started, I discovered a new interest in fighting discrimination, especially racism. What started as a simple Google search about George Floyd led me to the never-ending list of horrific incidents which innocent people face every day. The violence and hate toward Asian American Pacific Islander communities upset me deeply. I’m truly appalled by the stories I’ve heard and feel ever so strongly about doing my part to make a difference.

In my seventh-grade English class, we studied Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom. Mandela’s story taught me countless lessons, but a singular quote from that book stood out to me. It reads, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

I understand that this world will never be perfect. The challenges we face today have been dealt with in the past and will show up again in the future. However, I do not believe in accepting racism. I believe the Stop Asian American Pacific Islander Hate community has fought long and hard to speak out about the problems they face. I hope to be an ally and continue fighting toward justice for the innocent people who have faced and continue to face hate and violence.