My identity seems to be lost on a hyphen. Asian-American. Indian-American.
This hyphen denotes a bridge between two places of utmost importance to what people (and myself to a certain extent) associate with my identity. The United States, the place where I was born and raised, and India, the place where my parents were born, raised and ultimately married.
This hyphen represents a bridge to where I stand right in the middle: being raised culturally Indian yet legally and by birth, American.
In India, I am considered completely “American” with no knowledge or interest in my Indian heritage.
In America, I am not American enough. I am encouraged to assimilate, to tone down my brownness, to act as “American” as possible.
My question to the world is, what exactly does being Indian mean? What does being an American mean? What do you mean by Indian-American? What exactly does that hyphen represent?
Does it represent the distance between two continents, shortened only by faster airplanes and communication methods? Does it represent identities lost between these two continents, seemingly caught in the tug-a-war between two cultures?
I love being an American, yet I love the Indian and Asian side of me that is undeniably an integral part of my identity. I will never be fully either or, always tugged between the two identities. Yet, these identities do not fully define me, as there is much more to a person than their prescribed skin color, ethnicity and religious background.
Maybe the hyphen represents something outside of these identities – a possibility to transcend outside of the given physical labels we have given each other and a chance to recognize someone as much more than just their physical identification.
However, now is not the time to ignore our physical differences. Until we are socially, institutionally and philosophically able to give one another with equal respect and opportunity, we cannot be ignorant of our physical differences. The hyphens current yet vague definition must stay for the time being, waiting for the possibility of a brighter egalitarian future.
Written by Ilina Krishen
Art by Maggie McConnell, Graphic Designer, What the F Magazine