Hoping to be Born Brown

(Note: I am on my honeymoon this week, so if your comment doesn’t show up right away, give me a day or two!)

Most of the time I’m just living my life, trying to be a good person, trying to live up to the ideals my religion sets for me: to help others, to see everyone as myself (or at least as family), to react calmly rather than in anger.

Every so often I stumble on something that forces me to confront a larger issue that is always in the background of my life: the cultural misappropriation problem.

It’s a term that I only first heard about within the last couple of years. For a long time I was blissfully unaware that me being me could be offensive to people.

Each time I read a new blog or article about it, I think I begin to understand it more and more. I am still not certain what to do about it, though.

This time it was reading Why I Can’t Stand White Belly Dancers. (I guess I can take solace that a lot of people don’t agree with the article at all. Oh God. She’s written a response piece).

For a moment I can see it. These women of color enjoying their life, their heritage, what little they may have. And then white women see it and it looks fun, they want it. So they take it. Why do we think we can do that? We suck.

I don’t see myself as an Indian wannabe. I don’t see myself as playing with browness. Well, of course I don’t see it that way, but what’s important is when others feel that I am taking something from them. The burden of proof is on me here, not on those who are feeling hurt.

The definition for misappropriation includes that the rituals and traditions are taken because they are “cool” and “exotic” but not with knowledge of their history and meaning. I do what I do with a lot of knowledge of history and meaning. But most people who see me out on the street have no way to know that, so I am assumed to be ignorant. (Very interesting article defining and explaining a lot of these terms here: Cultural Appreciation or Cultural Appropriation?)

Someone on my Facebook page attacked me on cultural misappropriation and I think he definitely had valid thoughts. It was unfortunate that he wasn’t able to talk about it with me rationally but could only scream, curse, and threaten until he was banned. I don’t want to invalidate his feelings. I don’t want to say that if someone has a problem with how I am, they must come to me in a calm and rational way in order to discuss it. But I didn’t know what else to do.

(From the Bellydancing response article: “I refuse to sit quietly in the margins and only speak when I can ‘calmly’ educate and teach. I’m fucking angry, y’all, at decades and centuries of dehumanization” and from Decolonize Bellydance: “People of color have a right to be angry and questioning the validity of that anger or bemoaning a lack of logical argument or an unwillingness to have a dialogue is a form of oppression. “)

I may have to become a recluse and hide in my house for the rest of my life. That’s sounding like a better and better option all the time.

I don’t think that I’m “playing” at anything here. Is there any other option to those who are sensitive to white people “appropriating” Hinduism? Hearing “if you’re white, it’s not for you” sounds to me like I’m being asked to sit out for an entire lifetime and just wait around, doing nothing for my soul, not working towards my spiritual development, just sitting around hoping to be born brown in my next life.

Dear Gods, why didn’t you make me brown? Why was I born into this weird limbo?

I don’t want to stand out for being a white woman. I don’t want to have all this extra meaning attached to me doing something just because I’m white. There are times when I wish I were darker. There are times I wish I could blend quietly in with the religion of my soul.

The irony is not lost on me that people of color in America wish they could just blend in with larger society and not have to be constantly aware of their skin tone. Neither of us seems to have any choice about that.

It is truely exhausting. I can’t leave the house without feeling scrutinized and judged. I constantly feel like I have to defend myself. And to prove that this girl and I are not alike!
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I’m sorry, but *cringe*

I’m so wiped out that I just want to vanish.

I can see the problem most clearly if white people take away opportunities from natives of whatever it is. If someone looks to me as a source on Hinduism…well, I am not a sage, a priest, or a scholar (but such people could be Indian and could be white). I am a person sharing stories along the way of a personal spiritual journey! I hope to be able to point people in the right direction, and to give guidence to people who are in the same situation that I am. (If you need to know what it’s like to go to a Hindu temple to worship for the first time when you haven’t grown up doing it, I’m your girl!)

This is legitimately who I am.

There isn’t a template of a white girl for me to return to. My soul is Hindu. I know that without any doubt. Do I think I am just as Hindu as Indian Hindus? Why yes, actually, I do.

So why don’t I be Hindu without any of the Indian stuff? Well, that’s easier said than done. Where do you draw the line between what’s religious and what’s cultural? I’ve been asking that for the past ten years. I prefer to err on the side of doing more because I don’t want to miss important elements of my religion by cherry picking the parts that people feel comfortable with a white girl doing.

Maybe I really am an Indian wannabee. Sometimes white women who marry Indian men get teased for trying so very hard to fit in, to feel pride at just how “Indian” they can act. I fall into that trap too. The temptation to try to “pass” for Indian gets stronger and stronger (and that’s why I’m writing a novel about it. What I can’t do, my characters can!). It reminds me of a friend who babysat me. She said once that when she was little and was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, she said “Native American” not realizing at the time that it wasn’t something you could grow up to become. And yet. It seems like I am trying to “grow up” to become a different race.

I don’t want to be racist. I don’t want to offend. I don’t want to hurt feelings. But I also can’t give up being what I am and doing what I do. So both myself and the people who are offended by me are stuck in a sad loop.

I guess I feel like if I passed for Indian than the sting and offense goes out of it. People wouldn’t be hurt by me practicing my religion. They might think I’m eccentric or weird (I know, I know, I dress like a grandmother), but they wouldn’t feel threatened by me.

That’s pretty racist. But I’m even worse than that. I know that what I do could be problematic, but I do it anyway. I really suck. Many of you have supported me in previous panics of this nature and I really appreciate that. Many have said I need to stop worrying so much what other people think. I’m struggling to learn how to do that. I don’t want to upset people, but I also need to be true to myself.

It reminds me of the guy who writes the All Japanese All The Time website. His advice for language learning is to live the language and he recommends making your life Japanese. Eat Japanese, listen to Japanese radio, TV, movie, act as though you are Japanese, immitate to learn. Part of me feels like he can get away with this advice because he’s Black and no one is going to accuse him of racism. I get in enough trouble as it is acting Indian, there’s no way I could follow his advice for my Hindi learning!

The author of the article, Randa Jarrar, is not interested in a tedious dicussion of what white people are allowed and not allowed to do, so I still have to figure out for myself whether I’m being a racist jerk. (“Many other arguments kept centering white people in the discussion, asking what they’re allowed or not allowed to do. Ultimately, that’s not the discussion I want to have.”)

Probably I am. But I guess she’s just going to have to hate me because I don’t see any way for me to avoid being a racist jerk that doesn’t compromise things that I’m just not going to compromise.  I’m sorry that you’ve suffered the effects of racism. I would trade with you if I could. But I can’t and apparently I’m not sorry enough to stop being a privledged self-centered white racist jerk who has made this all about her even though she doesn’t belly dance.


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About Ambaa Choate

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.

  • Dorothy

    Namaste — I am drawn to Hinduism and all things Indian as if by a strong-stronger-strongest magnet. But my partner raises a good point… maybe there is a *reason* I was not born in India this time around…..

    Sorry to hear you sounding so frustrated in this post. Remember the old saw about the talking dog? It’s not amazing that it talks so badly, but rather that it talks at all. That’s how I think my Hindu friends see me… the spiritual practice equivalent of talking badly, but I feel that I am blessed for trying. Strangers, not so much… but at this point that’s ok for me. I am actually amused when I am in India and someone gives me a “There, there, ignorant American” lecture about who Ganesh is, or whatever. I’ve been at this for a long long time, but of course they have no way of knowing that.

    • Ambaa

      Oh gosh, that dog story is it exactly!

      My friend Jeramy always says that if God wanted to experience all things, than He must need to also experience being a Hindu born not to a Hindu family. I want to believe him, but it stretches the rules of logic a bit, doesn’t it?

  • IaMJ

    Sister, I just have one quote for you. It is from Mahatma Gandhi:

    First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

  • Harsh Wardhan Gunthey

    Sister less than 16% indians have access to internet so dont be so negative, there are far more Indian’s who will adore you for what you are, appreciate what you have been able achieved on path of dharma and in all honesty some times you make me feel ashamed of how bad born hindu i am.

    • Ambaa

      Thank you. Sometimes I just have bad days. :-/

  • http://amarchotoprithibi.blogspot.com/ Andrea

    I have a lot of respect for you and your courage to write out these thought processes in a public forum.

    You’ve read my blog entry “One of those girls,” right? I think it covers some of the same ground, though not all. Mostly just the last part – how we can (or if we should, or if it is possible at all to) differentiate ourselves from those who just ‘put on because pretty.’ And I really don’t come up with any solutions or anything either 😀

    Here are some random thoughts I had while reading in response:

    “Hearing “if you’re white, it’s not for you” sounds to me like I’m being asked to sit out for an entire lifetime and just wait around, doing nothing for my soul” …
    — There’s tons of things we can do for our soul in a ‘white lifetime’ as it were. Most importantly, we can try to make the world a better place than we left it, we can use the privilege we have to stand up for what is right when they would not listen to a more marginalized person, we can examine our privilege and learn how to exercise it in a way that does not perpetuate white supremacy. And it is a learning process. We will never be completely ‘not racist’ because this is the society we grew up in, the values we have learned. We can unlearn, little by little, piece by piece, but in the end it’s not about us anyway, but about making the world a more equitable place for everyone. We can live in community with others and participate in a way where we give more than we take. It isn’t about ‘pleasing brown people’ – brown people are not all of one mind and what makes one person happy is deeply offensive to another – but about looking at those places where we do offend and attempting to see from their perspective, even if we or our South Asian friends do not share that perspective.

    “I don’t want to have all this extra meaning attached to me doing something just because I’m white.”
    — Yes, but this is the way of the world, a world that has been created before we came and will remain in similar condition after we leave. As I’ve said before, a sari on a white body signifies something different than a sari on a brown body. We come into a world that is already full of history, full of connotation, full of injustice and we can let it be like that or we can work to change it, without necessarily being the ones in charge of heading up that change. We don’t ask to be born what we are; we just need to do our dharma. There are things that society requires of us to achieve equality if we’re among the privileged.

    “His advice for language learning is to live the language and he recommends making your life Japanese…imitate to learn…I get in enough trouble as it is acting Indian, there’s no way I could follow his advice for my Hindi learning!”
    — As a fellow language learner (Bengali for me), I don’t see why you can’t take his advice. I try to – I cook Bengali food (sometimes from Bengali recipes), listen to Bengali radio programs, music, and TV, read books and articles and status updates in Bengali, and try to speak with my friends who know the language. You must imbibe the culture to imbibe the language, but to find my ‘inner Bangali bhadromohila’ I do not have to perpetuate stereotypes either. There’s not one correct way of Bengalis being Bengali nor is there an ‘ideal’ to emulate. There is no need to wear a red and white sari with the traditional two-pleat drape or the big red bindi; there is no need to grind my spices with a shil-nora or refuse to listen to anything but Rabindrasangeet. There is no stereotypical Hindi speaker to emulate, just the people you have around you. You don’t have to wear salwar kameez every day to immerse yourself in Hindi-language culture; lots of Hindi speakers wear jeans and t-shirts. You don’t have to listen to only bhajans or even Bollywood songs – check out Indian rock bands like Indian Ocean if that is more your style. Cook Indian food from Hindi recipes (check out Nisha Madhulika’s Youtube site). Watch TV and movies (with the caveat that it doesn’t always accurately represent culture; would you want people learning American culture from Baywatch or Sex and the City?), listen to music that you like in your target language, news stories, go to parties, meet people, watch how they interact with each other and with you, listen, listen, listen, read, read, and talk, and write. Children don’t have an idea in their minds of what their culture is supposed to be as they grow; they learn it as they go along. Similarly we learn languages – we don’t need to start with this idea of “the perfect Hindi speaker” and try to be them. We pick things up along the way, then one day we find ourselves in an effortless Hindi conversation, quoting Sholay without thinking about it, using English words where Hindi speakers normally use English words instead of that obscure Hindi one we looked up in a dictionary, we laugh at jokes in Hindi because we understand the context of them, and we realize that we’ve learned quite a bit more than language.

    Randa Jarrar’s quote: “Many other arguments kept centering white people in the discussion, asking what they’re allowed or not allowed to do. Ultimately, that’s not the discussion I want to have.”

    –We are necessarily centered in our own lives and we must have that discussion with ourselves. We don’t have to ask her, or any other PoC, to center us when they are discussing something that addresses their own experiences and yet so many do. This is something for us to work out with ourselves and within our own communities. I also think that the idea of ‘what we are allowed and not allowed to do’ is flawed in a sense because it is not about a list of Rules For White People. (Funny how we automatically look at it in that sense, after our culture’s having imposed Rules For Others so many times in history…) It is about being aware of the impact, whether we like or not, that Being White has on what we think are daily activities and decisions, and keeping that in the front of the mind when in these kinds of situations. The last post you wrote was about Christian privilege and the desire for people to remember that such a thing exists; we have to do the same with our white privilege.

  • Rani Iyer

    My dear friend, thank you for voicing your thoughts. I need to ask you one question, I want you to ask yourself this question every time you set ‘your’ whiteness against ‘their’ brownness and decide that people are not welcoming your whiteness quite the way you would like it and with an exuberance you want. Ask yourself, what does this mean to me? Take for example a Sari. It might just be a garment, an ‘exotic wrap’ to try on. To us brown folks, it is culture, it is tradition, it is lifeline, it is knowledge, it is memories of our ancestors, it is the continuation of a lineage, it is emotional, it is cognitive, it serves social functions that do not require elaborate words. Unless you are able to immerse yourself in the culture, not be a tourist (you don’t have to cherry pick) you will not feel that connection. In your writing, I see the question, why am I not being accepted? In all my years in US, I have never asked that question to myself. I just know that bar is not my scene. I wear my bindhi and salwar kameez, even to work. Let me tell you I do with the pride of my heritage with deep love for my culture, traditions, and roots. I do it quietly, even timidly by your standards, but I will not waver in my practice. I do not do it seek attention. I just know and I just do it. Ultimately, it is our actions that speak louder than our words.

    I hope to be able to point people in the right direction, and to give guidence to people who are in the same situation that I am.

    -I sincerely hope you would not do that! For the very essence of Sanatana Dharma is experiential. Hinduism is a word coined by colonial people. It is not the framework I choose to define my spiritual traditions and practices. Our experiences are what shape us. I sincerely hope you will let people discover their own frequency and work it out. There is space for everybody in Sanatana Dharma. For you too. Just take a deep breathe and practice before you say anything more. Let your practice speak for you.

    I wish you all the best.

    • Ambaa

      Thank you! I would say that when I wear a sari I also feel a deep sense of connection to my past. Which is weird. The only explanation I can think of is that I’m tuning into a previous lifetime in which I lived in India? I know that sounds kind of like making an excuse, but I really do feel connected to history in a profound way.

  • Rani Iyer

    Also please be aware that Sanatana Dharma does not believe in conversion, only in practice. I find the phrase ‘non-Indian convert to Hinduism’ offensive.

    • Ambaa

      Yes, it is true. I use the term because I have found that there are some issues, questions, and concerns that come up for non-native practitioners that don’t so much for natives, so I find it important to have a word to distinguish that.

      • Rani Iyer

        If you identify yourself as a practitioner, where is the question on native or non-native?

        • Ambaa

          I had a post somewhat on this subject recently. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/whitehindu/2014/03/phases-of-the-convert/

          One potential enormous difference is trying to figure out how to practice and in what way when you’ve had no mother to teach you rituals, no one to follow as you grow up. You have no support from family, even if they want to support you. They have no knowledge to give you. So non-native converts try out a lot of different traditions from varieties of sects and sometimes have them all mixed up. Some get connected with a guru and are able to make up for that lost understanding but others struggle to connect with a guru who can guide them.

          There are other questions and issues, that’s just one example!

          • Rani Iyer

            Ambaa, I can tell you one thing for sure. I come from a large family. We have all shades of folks, from atheists to believers in our family. Only thing I can tell you from my experience is that your thirst for getting more than what you see and not just settling down for whatever happens, is the most important. In my own case, my practice is so different from my mother’s or anyone else in my family. We are all so different, and our paths are different! Hold on and go forth!

          • Ambaa

            Good point!

  • Truth Seeker

    Hi Amba, you have an interesting post there. I feel the need to say that u need not feel dishearted because of yr color and / or ethnic background and carry on with Sanatana Dharma without giving too much thought on what others say about you.
    You have my full support! :-))

    However I believe the reason for some amount of hostility stems from the history of White atrocities on others till date. Especially RACISM! The slavery, colonialism and distorted view of non-whites in nature.

    It is a well know fact that whites do not consider others to be equal to them, how often do we find inter racial marriages between whites and non-whites?? Very few! It’s one thing to prefer marrying someone from ones own race but to judge someone base on their color, race, religion is hurtful. Even immigrants in western nations were persecuted for their skin color, religious and cultural beliefs. Does blonde, brunette and brown hair coupled with colored eyes and fair skin make one more beautiful and superior to others?? That’s subjective, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

    When non-white people do anything no one is allowed to criticize them, I quote Randa’s article.

    This is quite true, in history whites misappropriated practices that were foreign to you and made it yrs, such as Yoga, Eastern healing and Ayurveda. How many give credit to its origin?? Hard to find.

    Just look at what whites did to India, looted all the riches, wrote lies abt our faith and culture but never apologized. Today people have all kinds of negative views about us which we have to bear with on a daily basis, all thanks to white media.

    So why do whites feel the need to talk about others , subjugate and demean others??

    Peace and blessings be upon you!! Hope yr journey in Sanatana Dharma and India culture bears GREAT fruit!!!

  • Truth Seeker

    Take a look at Saffron Cross, it’s a beautiful union which really breaks inter-faith barriers. I am waiting for my book to arrive, the reviews were awesome. I really pray and wish for their success at every stage in their live. They really have true love for each other!!!

    But if Fred was a non-white, would this marriage have taken place??

    • Ambaa

      I actually reviewed this book myself! I enjoyed it very much.

      I do think it must help them that they have race in common. It seems like having a single major point of difference is more likely to be successful than a bunch of points of difference.

      • Ambaa

        Thank you for your kind words. I think you are absolutely right that the root of all of this is racism. Both other people’s and my own. I try hard to not look down on others and I have a lot of respect of people from cultures and places different from myself, but clearly I have trouble taking criticism! :)

        • Truth Seeker

          It’s okay to have difficulty accepting critics as it is in human nature to frown at something unpleasant.

          You see Amba u proved me and many others right that whites are indeed racist, therefore u need to
          understand very few would welcome whites into the Hindu faith with open arms because there’ll always be suspicion on the true intention of what you people actually want to achieve and the manner in which u analyse non-whites. It is actually quite hurting!

          In the past we did welcome colonial masters and thought they really were searching for the truth only to realise that we were stabbed in the back when they published extremely distorted rubbish about our faith and culture. I am not sure if you are aware of this, I wouldn’t be surprised if u didn’t know as whites do not want to know or accept this. So history had been “whitewashed”.

          Just look at Yoga, everyone practises it and how many actually honor it’s roots?? Almost none, it was and is the Indian Hindus who fought and defended the very same faith that gave the world Yoga, Ayurveda. How many give us the credit for it?? None, on top of that we are given racist treatments.

          Now we have the oxymoron called christian yoga, soon it will spawn into white thing which u guys came up with.

          It’s very hard to change oneself especially if you have been raised in a culture that believes in a superior race and all others to be worthless. It is embedded in the DNA.

          • Ambaa

            Indeed. I hate that it’s true, but it is. I know that I am sincere in my search for Truth, but I also know that there will always be suspicion about my motives and there’s nothing to really fix that. :(

      • Truth Seeker

        Yes u have a point here but if a single difference is better than a bunch then one needs to study the root of the difference.

        Fred being a white Hindu has no right to indulge in such interfaith marriage, this would amount to cultural and religious appropriation at a very high level which Indian Hindus would not accept, so far the positive reviews all came from whites, no Indians no Hindus.

        • Ambaa

          Could you ellaborate what you mean that Fred can’t have an interfaith marriage?

          I am curious about that because I am a white Hindu in an interfaith marriage with another white person. He’s Buddhist, but still. What makes my relationship different? Or is it?

          • Truth Seeker

            Dear Amba,

            1) There’s actually quite a lot of difference between You and Dana. In yr case you married a Buddhist being a Hindu which does not really have much difference in fact both religions share common grounds.

            2) Secondly you are not taking an interfaith stand to encourage others rather you are sharing yr own personal journey towards Hinduism, which I totally support. You even study Vedic scriptures and discuss about it, that’s a good thing. Thus it is up to readers regardless of their ethnicity and religion to decide if they want to follow Hinduism.

            3) In Fred & Dana’s case they are both ordained in their respective traditions and got married. Here’s where the race and appropriation issues arise, Fred and Dana being a white shouldn’t be taking an interfaith stand as Fred’s faith is essentially Indian and not widespread like Christianity which includes multiple races.

            4) One may opine that race and religion are 2 separate entities however we shouldn’t forget that the times we live in clearly shows the domination of religion by race. The question is what message is Fred sending out, that he represent last the Hindu community? Many Indian Hindus would shrug at the idea of marrying a follower of the Abrahamic and leaving in an interfaith household. Many a times it leads to conversion due to conflicts.

            5) So far they have been married for abt 2 years and things seem fine but what about later in life?? Or when they have kids? Dana doesn’t even have proper understanding of Hinduism the way you do. I never heard of her quoting Vedic scriptures.

            6) Food holds great value in the spiritual development of a person in Hinduism thus veganism is followed. As I understand Dana is a vegan however she had slipped many a times and consumed beef which is her favorite and even admitted to having difficulty in quitting it. How often does she eat non veg esp beef is questionable. Practicing Hindus would not tolerate meat eating let alone beef of either their spouse or children. All this seen as a threat to our faith and spiritual development.

            7) To sum it up, one can choose to follow any faith but do not do with a view of representing the people of that religion esp if you don’t belong to the majority race and which violates scriptures rather work in harmony with all so that the general consensus can be understood better and the true message of the faith reaches out. Those supporting Saffron Cross so far have been whites again!! Were there any non white org which gave a thumbs up to it?? I haven’t of any.

            Only time can tell what really will happen.

            Namaste :-))

            Ravi

          • Ambaa

            Very interesting insights! Thank you for sharing.

  • Akhlesh

    Hinduism cannot be “appropriated”. You are a Hindu if you exist. That is why one cannot either “convert” [Christian sense] or “revert” [Islamic sense] to Hinduism.

    • Ambaa

      :)

  • Truth Seeker

    No matter what happens, one must always muster courage, have faith in humanity and believe in the Divine.

    Do not let impersonators with venomous speech bring you down. Those who are inclined to evil will always face eventual fall out.

    Let me quote this verse from Mahopanishad VI 71-73: Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam which means the whole world is one single family. Those who think otherwise are mean minded!

    Perhaps you could research on this Upanishad and talk abt it in yr future blog post. All the issue with race, cultural appropriation, etc will automatically be silenced.

    Hope this brightens yr day and clears any misunderstanding that may have occurred unintentionally from my comments previously. :-)))

    Have a great honeymoon and be blessed! :-))

    • Ambaa

      Perhaps I can read that Upanishad when I finish the series on the Katha!

  • Truth Seeker

    Btw Amba I hope you don’t misunderstand my comments on this blog as I have no intention of hurting or discouraging anyone from following Hinduism. Rather I am delighted that followers such as yrself are sharing their deep thoughts and helping others to walk the path :-))

    Peace and blessings !!

    • Ambaa

      Thank you :)

  • badtooth

    hum…..i guess not every one thinks imitation is the sincerist form of flatery. some might call this political correctness run amock.
    no burden to me though. lol. this may be my new favorite blog. 2 4 2 on making me laugh.

    • Ambaa

      Well, I guess I’m glad you’re getting a laugh :)

  • Rohan

    Kinda ironic when many non-whites want to be white.And i think you are more Hindu than the average Indian born hindu

    • Ambaa

      Indeed. It is funny how many of us want something different. I was thinking the other day how most people strive to move up the “ladder” of privilege but there are a few who have a strong desire to move down. Which is strange and difficult for people to understand. It happens too with transgender people who are men and want to be women. People don’t understand how they could want to give up the privilege of being a man. And there are people who are “transabled” who feel that they are supposed to be disabled and those who don’t feel it are equally mystified!

  • Mithun

    Okay, I’ve come across many people (nearly all of them Caucasian Westerners) who worry that they are engaging in cultural appropriation. You’re the latest :)

    I’m telling you what I wish I could have told those other people too.

    1. You are not “culturally appropriating” anything. The knowledge and the wisdom contained in the scriptures as well as the temples/institutions of hindudom are for the benefit of the whole world – regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality and culture.

    2. Second, even if you were culturally appropriating things, I (and most native-born hindus) are not and will not be offended about it. What’s to be offended about? That you are a devotee of the God or Goddess? That is between you and Him/Her. About the fact that you wear a bindi/tilak? We ethnic Indians do not have a patent or monopoly on adorning the third eye with vermillion/ash. About the fact that you dress in native Indian clothes and speak in Indian languages? We are more likely to be flattered and pleased than anything else. Obviously I can’t speak for everyone, but you can be certain that I speak for the vast majority.

    3. The offence-causing kind of cultural appropriation is extremely easy to identify (for me anyway) due to the feeling of outrage it instantly inspires. This happens when I see Christian missionaries and pastors in India using the word Veda to refer to the Bible, Deva/Devarajan for Jesus, Kovil/Mandir for Church and when they utilize sacred Vedic architectural elements in churches, call pastors “Sadhus” and wear ochre robes to fool the gullible. THAT is cultural appropriation.

    4. To sum up, if you find yourself concerned that you are engaging in cultural appropriation, then chances are that you are not the kind of person who needs to worry about it in the first place.

    Am submitting this comment without proofreading it for tone or coherency, so I hope my point comes across :)

    • Ambaa

      Thank you very much. It is heartening and reassuring to hear this from you. I guess it’s clear here how hard I try to be respectful, and I never want to get complacent about making sure that I’m not hurting others (as much as I can possibly avoid, anyway, without compromising myself)

      • Ambaa

        (Of course then it turns into a whole other problem as we white people need constant reassurance that we’re not appropriating and I’m sure it must get exhausting to others to hand hold us about it!)

  • http://thecodepost.in/ Sarthak Ganguly

    Just be who you are. Be free, that’s what matters in the end. Life is short, make the most of it. :) Lots of love, Om Shanti.

    • Ambaa

      Wise words! Thank you! :)


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