Stop Mocking Me For Not Understanding American References

Image:   Pramika Kadari

Image: Pramika Kadari

“You’ve never heard of [insert supposedly famous actor here]?”

People ask me that question far more often than I would like to admit, and my reaction usually consists of an awkward shrug and a half-hearted apology. 

But I shouldn’t be the one apologizing.

Growing up in a fairly traditional Indian family, I was raised on movies such as Taare Zameen Par and Fanaa, filled with Bollywood songs and colorful cultural dresses. My sister would blast Hindi music in our shared study room, and my family would only watch Indian movies together in the theater. 

That’s why I don’t know the names of those popular actresses you just mentioned. Not because I don’t care about Pop Culture - I literally want to be a television writer in the future - but because throughout my childhood, I was never exposed to them. And it’s taking me a while to catch up. 

Obviously, I would never mock anyone for their lack of knowledge on Bollywood news and actors, so why should I be judged for my obliviousness about the Hollywood references that built American children's’ childhoods? 

Ever since late middle school or early high school, I’ve felt pressure to conform to the American lifestyle; I’ve felt like my dark skin, coarse hair and ethnic food are abnormal and weird. So honestly, I am glad my earlier childhood was spent immersed in Indian culture. Because now, I feel like part of me is constantly fighting that part of me. 

My peers shaming me for not being as knowledgeable about American culture is a huge reason for that, because part of me thinks If only I was white, then I would probably never be clueless about what everyone is talking about. Or if only my family acted less Indian and more white

I should never have to feel that way; stopping the norm of shaming people for not understanding American references is the first step to ending those feelings.

Pramika KadariComment