Finding My Color In The Rainbow

I’ve never felt more Indian in my life than during my time in South Africa. Indian Americans usually experience positive discrimination: People assume we are intelligent, hard working and conservative. But not in South Africa. Apartheid targeted colored immigrants from all over the world. Only 30 years ago, Indians in South Africa experienced a level of blatant racism that I was aware of before I got here, but found difficult to understand until I was surrounded by its history. Even when visiting sites of British occupation back in India, I had a difficult time feeling connected to those who shared my heritage. But standing at the Number Four Prison at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, where Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent movement began, and learning about how much he sacrificed to stand up for the rights of Indian South Africans, made me especially proud to share his heritage. A smaller but equally powerful moment for me occurred at the Apartheid Museum, where I learned about the Indian Waiter Race, in which waiters were forced to run with drinks balanced on trays. I felt humiliated for the participants. They were paraded around like show dogs whose sole purpose was to entertain. I am surprised that I feel more connected to Indians in South Africa than in the United States or in India. I was born in the United States to immigrant parents. But because I am the product of two cultures, in the same way Indians in South Africa were, I am deeply affected by the abuse they endured.
–Mohini Tangri