Black Hindu Voices: Trent Campbell

So obviously I write this blog from my perspective and I am a white Hindu, but there are other experiences of non-Indian Hindus and I wanted to showcase some other voices.

I’ve heard rumors that Black people receive even less of a welcome than White people in Hindu communities. I hope that that’s just lies and slander! After all, in Hinduism there is no “Was Jesus Black?” debate (for the record, I’m positive he wasn’t white!). Krishna most certainly is Black. His name even means “The Dark One.”

So I reached out to a few people of darker complexion than my own to talk about their experiences with Hinduism and the Hindu community. The first to respond to my questions was Trent…

Tell us a little bit about how you came to be a Hindu…Have you felt welcome at Hindu events and places of worship? What kinds of receptions have you had?

Well, I’ve always been fascinated with the world’s cultures and religious traditions. When I was around 11, I found two books in the children’s section in the library. One was stories about Ganesha and the other was a children’s version of Bhagwad Gita. As I got older, I stayed interested in Hinduism and by the time I was 17, I was following the Hindu tradition.

What challenges have you experienced when it comes to expressing your Hinduness?

I’ve had only very warm receptions in Hindu temples. A few odd stares at first, but that’s to be expected. It’s not often you see a Chinese Jew either! The majority of the devotees at my temple and many temples in my city are Indo-Caribbean. They’re used to black and other people participating in Hindu festivals like Diwali, Holi, and Ramleela, so a black Hindu isn’t as far-fetched for them as it is for the Indians from India.

Honestly, I haven’t experienced very many challenges, I’d say. The worst I’ve gotten were an Indo-Caribbean Musllim try to tell me that Hindus worship monkeys (referring to Hanuman) and several Christians seeing a pendant I wear with Shiva on it and promptly trying to minister to me. Other than that, being Hindu has been a great topic of casual conversation with most people I come across.

What do you think are the racial issues around Hinduism and conversion to Hinduism?

I think the main and maybe only racial issue surrounding Hinduism today is Hinduism and it’s traditions become less “Indian”. A lot of the traditions and customs that make Hinduism so vibrant are the ones in the culture out of which it arose. It’s not a matter of Westerners and others adding their own spins on popular Hindu/Indian traditions, but a matter of not knowing or having a respect the original traditions at all (pujas, knowing the traditional kathas or stories, etc.). I don’t think there’s any dire tension surrounding the issue, ultimately, but I have heard this opinion expressed by some Indian Hindus.

What advice would you give to other non-Indians who are interested in becoming Hindus?

I would say visit read up on as many resources as you can get your hands on so you can see the many aspects of Hinduism at glance. Find a temple and ask the pundit or pujari any question you have about anything. They’re always very helpful and willing to talk or maybe even an elderly person at the temple. They’re filled with knowledge, I’ve found. Finally, start doing meditation! It’s the best thing most people (Hindus and non-Hindus alike) aren’t doing.

What else would you like people to know about you?

I will say being black and Hindu is certainly easier than being gay and Hindu as far as public reception is concerned, but knowing that being gay isn’t spoken against within Hindu shastra is affirming. It really hasn’t been that much of an issue for me, but I’ve heard some not so nice opinions about homosexuals from some other Hindus.

Thank you so much, Trent, for sharing your thoughts with us. This gives me a lot to think about. You’ve painted a happy picture, though, and I’m relieved to hear that you haven’t found it too challenging to express your Hindu-ness. I really do need to get meditation into my routine

For new readers, I recommend taking a look at my post on Hinduism and Homosexuality.


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  • Seeker

    I am an American who happens to be black, and I have been well received in Hindu communities. Many are darker than I am and so I don’t have a problem blending in physically, but culturally, only because I don’t know all of the cultural nuances but I am gladly learning. (I LOVE my Kurta shirts).

    I consider myself an invisible Hindu because I am ignored by the western media who want to paint all non eastern devotees as white. An article on Hindu statistics states *”Hindus form 0.4% of US adult population out of which 88% are of Asian background while 5% are White (non-Hispanic).” No other race is acknowledged which makes me wonder if any other groups were polled, or, if the numbers were so low that we didn’t even measure.

    At the temple where I worship, the priest introduced me to the congregation one day and told them all that I have embraced this path wholeheartedly. He welcomed me into the community and that felt so very affirming. I am also in a Satsang group and a Gita discussion group.
    * I have the link to this if anyone wants it
    om namah shivaya

    • Ambaa

      No other race is acknowledged? That’s ridiculous. I’ve met a few Hindus who are black (and I’d love to have more of them on the blog to share their experiences!)

      It’s great that you’ve found a temple, a satsang group, and a Gita discussion group! That’s exactly the sort of support that we all need.

      • Vivek Vikram

        Ambaa, volunteering in hindu temples also helps a lot to bond with fellow hindus. Wearing Saree and Bindi to the events just breaks ice easily. Many indian hindus aren’t sure you are a hindu or just visiting the temple.

        • Lokesh

          Hindus from India also need to learn the differences between Culture of India and Hinduism, the Religion. We assume that we know Hinduism by default. Hinduism is a philosophy unbound by cultural practices. We have to affirm Hindus outside India are equally legitimate. I see it happening with the works of likes of Ambaa, Francois gautier, Maria Wirth, Dr Davis Frawley and others.

    • Samester

      Dear Seeker, can you please provide the link to your Satsang group that you mentioned.. Thanks!!

      • Seeker

        Samester, it is on Meetup. I found it there by Googling Hindu groups in San Francisco Bay area.

      • Seeker

        Samester this is one for a larger Gita group They are the ones who sponsor smaller groups such as the one I attended at the time.

        • Samester

          Thanks a lot.. will check it out

    • Vivek Vikram

      I have seen Black Hindus in ISCKON videos on youtube and in Rath Yatras in NY/NJ area.

  • tony

    Pretty weird. Considering Hindu philosophy, and the idea of not being attached to Maya (which includes skin color, I believe), while anchoring “yourself” in the Atman (true self), any discrimination that would possibly take place in a gathering place of supposed Hindus would simply go against their supposed philosophy. I think.

    • Trent Campbell

      What are you referring to, exactly? Neither the post nor comments implied discrimination during gatherings. I, the one who was interviewed, certainly have not experienced that. *Some* people staring at me when I visit non-local temples, sure, but that’s more out of curiosity and wonder, not discrimination. I’ve never been told or made to feel like I don’t belong in a Hindu setting and I don’t know of a single non-Indian Hindu who has. My experience is that most Hindus do follow the “supposed” philosophy you mentioned. Perhaps Ambaji posed the questions she did because many outsiders would pose them as well. Many of them may make the assumption(erroneously) that the Hindu community is somewhat xenophobic due to the ethnic make-up of most Hindus being Indian.

      • Samester

        Dear Trent, do you have a blog about your experiences as a practicing Hindu?

        • Trent Campbell

          No, I don’t, unfortunately.

          • Vivek Vikram

            then please guest blog here as often as you have new things to share positive or negative or questions. It helps lot of western hindus.

      • Vivek Vikram

        Trent you are right about the stares. If I stared it is just means amazements. Lot of non Indian people visit NJ temples to learn and observe the temple and its architecture. I have taken my white friends there.

    • Vivek Vikram

      Tony you are right. That state you mention without prejudice is a state. Maintaining is the challenge.

  • Vivek Vikram

    Amba Krishna/Vishnu is dark complexioned or dark blue. He is Neela Mega Syamalan.

  • Vivek Vikram

    Trent you make a good comment /acknowledgement about western spins of hinduism. I think it is inevitable. It has many different variations/varieties/spins inside India too. It is , unfortunately, seen a lot in Yoga today. Hindu yogis are critical of such dilution of yoga from its spiritual beginnings to mere work out thing. Fortunately serious yogis go on an inner inquisition and try to become purer yogis.

  • Angelo

    I just want to say to all converts….You (Westerners) have a habit of renouncing and shaming and trying to be different. All I want to say is Hinduism has so many evils that you are not aware of. They have discriminated their own race for 4000+ years. In any modern society it would have been a criminal offence.

    Before denouncing and renouncing anything at least come to know facts of changes you preferred.

    • Trent Campbell

      It’s a bit presumptuous to say 1) you know the habits of people you don’t know and 2) that those same people don’t know history.

      I don’t deny evil that the human race has committed, but when you say “discriminated against their own race for 4000+ years”, I *really* want to know: which ‘race’ hasn’t been doing exactly that for the better part of the last 4000+ years????