I have been doing a lot of thinking. I’m kind of a tumblr junkie and have been reading through several tumblrs that cover cultural appropriation and racial insensitivity.
At first, I was very angry. I have the best of intentions! I’m very knowledgeable! How in the world could this apply to me?
And then I realized that it does. It all applies to me. It applies so much that I feel guilty when I enter a temple. I feel guilty when I wear a saree in public. I have never been made to feel different or an outsider because of who I am, except for economic reasons and because I’m a nerd, which are universal sorts of things. No matter how much I learn and know, it will always be the case that I am not Indian, I was not born into a Hindu family, and whatever I have access to comes from me being part of a white, Western culture.
I am not part of the culture my ancestors came from. I am not part of the culture that is the object of my obsessions. I am part of an Anglican cultural background.
I am part of American culture, but that culture isn’t something that’s easy to define from the inside. So how do I find my place, if I can’t even see the boundaries of where I am? Do I discard all the exploration I’ve done so far and go back to the culture I’ve grown up in?
I honestly don’t know how to deal with this. On one hand, my crazy, saree-wearing self has gotten positive reactions from people in the past. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure what I’m doing is not totally respectful.
Rather than obsess over it, though, I’ll ask for opinions and thoughts, even if I’m sure it will cause some intense and heated debate.
What do you think about it? If you’re a Westerner in a similar position, how do you deal with this? If you’re from a South Asian background, how do you feel about it? I truly do want honest opinions. I’m not looking for justification, but I am looking for clearer understanding, since Indian culture has occupied so much of my interest for the past few years.