A couple weeks ago I took my ten month old daughter to one of the community swimming pools, my daughter loves the water, she especially loves when we run into other children. We were splashing around when we heard the voices, in my head I thought yay – friends (even temporary ones) for baby! I saw a face over the gate – yet no one entered the swimming area. I heard two voices;
“You not going in?”
In hushed tones
“There’s a nasty Indian in there.”
Huh? Did I hear wrongly? What?
I climbed out the pool, baby in hand – she also heard voices and was so excited; yabbering, clapping hands and eager to go down on the floor. We exited the pool and entered the playground area – my daughter visibly excited by the two little girls (toddlers perhaps) playing with each other. She twisted her body out of my arms and wiggled her way down to the ground. Gleefully exclaiming and rapidly crawling her way towards the little girls. The mothers snatched their daughters like birds of prey catching a mouse. I scooped up my baby off the floor – and she protested – arms reaching towards the little girls. My heart broke for her. We turned around and headed back to the pool. I said nothing.
A little voice behind me said
Children are so blissfully innocent of ugly.
I tried to entertain my daughter in the pool, I tried to pretend it didn’t bother me. Because why should it? I did nothing wrong. They are the ones who showed their ugly.
Based on their conversation and their accents, I would guess that they were American. And I blamed that – they are American hence they are such ugly people. In my head I lambasted America for its horrid culture, yet a little voice whispered your American friends are nothing like those women.
I’m not Indian, but they’ll never know that. Being blessed with a face that could have walked right out of India has always resulted in that misconception. In that moment I wished I was lighter skinned, I wished I was more Arab looking than Indian looking. In all of my mental confusion and shock – so many self deprecating thoughts whispered. Why did I not love my brown skin? I thought I did! I shine like gold, my brown is so beautiful. My thick, strong hair the result of a beautiful harmony of ethnicities – why did I forsake you?
In that moment I felt small, belittled, angry, hurt, sad, shocked, afraid and ashamed.