It’s time to celebrate our cultures, not spread hate.
Growing up, I was raised with two different cultures. On one hand, I am Indian, something I am fiercely proud of, and on the other hand, I am also American.
But, growing up with both cultures in my life sometimes made things difficult.
My parents never forced one culture over the other, but peer pressure always made me feel like I had to choose. If I talked about anything Indian at school, I felt no one ever understood what I was talking about, and so I chose to be much more “American” at school.
If I was more “American,” my peers understood me better, and what does a kid want more than to fit in?
But, even with choosing my “Americaness” at school, there was still a big influence of Indian culture at home. And so around family, I decided I had to be Indian.
Though I didn’t want to compromise who I was, I was doing just that. I never allowed myself to be both Indian and American at the same time, and it always made me wonder if one culture was better than the other.
As I grew older, kids became ruder, and I started to feel like I couldn’t really talk about my Indian side. This is so wrong. There are so many people in this world who grow up with two cultures. We should be celebrating our differences and not belittling each other.
This standard of acceptance needs to be taught to kids as well. It never made me feel good that I had to choose, but kids I went to school with simply did not understand, and maybe because of the adults in their life, they were never taught to understand.
Once I got to high school, the distinction felt more apparent. Slowly, I became increasingly embarrassed of my Indian culture.
But, why did I have to be embarrassed of who I was when boys would run around school in MAGA hats? What made their culture more acceptable than mine?
The answer is President Trump. His divisive language has encouraged people to act in ways that disparage groups of people that come from cultures like mine.
A president should aim to unite the country across cultural and racial lines, not divide us even further. And though Americans may never be able to agree 100 percent on certain issues, we should be able to understand the other side. Just like we should be able to understand each other’s cultures.
While we have a new generation fighting against this spread of hatred, there is an older generation that still teaches these ignorant values. I understand many people are doing the right thing, but there are still so many adults who are not.
Instead of teaching their kids to be tolerant and accepting, they are teaching their children it is okay to hate someone simply because they are different than them.
We may be Americans, but this land was founded on the backs of migrants. All of us have rich cultural backgrounds, no matter where we come from.
And with that, we should be able to celebrate being in America. But we should also be able to celebrate our other cultures, the cultures that make America a land of diversity.
There is not one person in this country who is better than anyone else because they are “more American.”
All of us are Americans in our own right. Whether we have been here for 30 years of for generations, we are American. But being American doesn’t mean we must give up any of our other cultures or identities. It means we can choose to be both.
So whether you are American or Indian or Chinese or Chilean, our differences should be celebrated. They make us who we are, and no one should be able to tell us otherwise.
Shalika Oza is a freshman studying journalism.