Being Brown in America

Prasanna Kumar

And not telling anyone
Because you don’t understand what you did wrong
But later not feeling surprised when a brown kid was murdered in this same town
The day after Trump was elected

Being a human having a stressful day
And then getting into an Uber
To have the driver exclaim,

To which I respond,

To which he says,

Being an adult and having the color of your skin fetishized
So that boys are asking if they can
Or calling you Jasmine
Or saying they have always wanted to date an

And feeling anger that you are not even sure how to process
Meeting a boyfriend’s parent for the first time
And being greeted in an Indian accent
And feeling so taken aback that you laugh

Even though every bit of you
Feels at odds

Meeting a friend’s parents who are Indian immigrants
And they keep asking why I cannot speak any Indian languages

And bluntly than saying my parents failed
And having most other Indian Americans I meet
Repeat the same harsh declaration

Until I feel neither dutiful enough to be considered Indian
Nor white enough to blend into America

Being asked constantly “where are you from?”
And having them not be satisfied with you stating your hometown
Or your current city of residence

Being pressed
Being grilled
By complete strangers

Until you comply with sharing your ethnic origins
And feeling like your white friend standing next to you
Never gets asked these same questions

Being at a music festival
To be stopped by a stranger
Who begins to make kind small talk
To then just loudly declare

And to abruptly walk away laughing.

But my country is America, isn’t it?
I was born here.

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